by Kevin Shaw | photos courtesy of Orpheum Theatre
If you haven’t seen The Book of Mormon, you ain’t seen nothing yet! It’s perhaps the bawdiest, shockingly hilarious show I’ve seen in my 45 years attending the theatre. It’s the story about Mormon missionaries who find themselves in the most dangerous of places and how they still hold true to their beliefs and their desires to help others You’ll find yourself looking around the audience seeking validation that you’re not the only sick, twisted person that finds this stuff funny and you’ll be shocked to see you’re surrounded by hundreds (if not thousands of others) who are just as demented as you are. It’s a different kind of “religion” that brings people together and, for the star of the tour, Liam Tobin (who plays Elder Price) he’s been converting followers and preaching to the choirs for over a year now.
Focus Magazine spoke with Tobin by phone while on a break from the tour in Rochester, New York.
Focus: Where did you grow up?
Tobin: St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada.
When did you start performing?
I guess when I was about 15 years old. It was a community theatre production of Beauty and the Beast. I had a bunch of friends one summer who were part of Peter Pan and they wouldn’t shut up about how fun it was, so I was like, fine, I’ll audition for the next one. Then I was a candlestick amongst other small parts in the show. I think I was the only person in the show without a line, but I had the best time ever! I thought, if I could do this for a living then I won’t be doing anything else.
Did you go to college to major in theatre?
Yeah, I went to Sheridan College in Ontario and I was there for a year and then I got a job in large show in downtown Toronto and left school with every intention of going back, but I just kind of kept working and I haven’t gone back yet.
Perhaps, this is more of a philosophical question, but do you think it’s important for kids who want to have a career in the theatre to major in it in college or even go to college at all?
Only if you plan on teaching when you leave the business, but if you are able to work without it, it’s absolutely not a requirement.
Do you think you’ll ever go back to get your degree?
(Laughing) You’re done, huh? So, I guess teaching’s not in your future? Do you see
yourself performing the rest of your life?
I’m actually a pilot. I have my pilot’s license. If anything, if these large shows stop coming around someday, then I think I’d like to move into a career with aviation.
How long have you been with this national tour?
I’ve been with this tour since December of 2018 and I was with the Broadway company for the year before that as the standby for the lead (Elder Price).
Did you go straight from New York into the tour or did you take some time off in between shows?
I had about 12 hours-notice. I showed up to work one night and my boss was there and said, “Hey, you’re getting on a plane tomorrow morning and you’re going to the tour!” They said it was only going to be for a month and then I’d come back to Broadway, but that month has continued since last December.
Why such short notice? What happened?
There was just a shuffling around of some people. They moved one guy from one company and another guy from a different company and they need to quickly fill the spot.
How many tours are out right now?
There are 5 companies out right now: Broadway, our tour, there’s a European tour, the West End and Australia. They kind of mix and match people between all five of those companies.
So you could be sent to a different country at a moment’s notice?
Do you get a vote in the matter or is it like a professional sports team where you just get traded to another team and you have no say in the matter?
It’s more like that.
For sure, when you’re a standby. But it’s worth it if you get to take over a role full-time. I’m super happy!
How much longer do you think you’ll be with this tour?
Right now, I’m contracted through April.
Do you think you’ll want to extend or move on to something else?
Who knows? They kind of do these contracts a year at a time, so we’ll see.
How different is the tour from the Broadway production? I mean, wasn’t it difficult to go into the tour with only 12-hours’ notice?
All the shows are exactly the same. Whether it’s Europe or Australia or this national tour, the blocking, everything is exactly the same. The only thing you’d notice that is different is the actual people onstage.
Were you at all reluctant to go into this show considering the subject matter (some perceive it to be making fun of religion)?
Oh, not at all!
No feelings that this might be offensive to your family or friends?
Nope! Right up my alley!
So, are you a religious person?
You say that proudly.
I do indeed! I’m an atheist, so the subject matter absolutely doesn’t bother me at all.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this question a lot, but after having done this role on tour for almost a year, isn’t it difficult to keep it fresh?
No, not at all. First of all, the show is so much fun to do. It’s great to be in a comedy and one that works so well. When you’re working with writers like Matt (Stone) and Trey (Parker) and Bobby Lopez (Avenue Q and Frozen), the material is so great that it’s a privilege to get out there and do the show every night. Plus, what’s amazing is that wherever we go in the country (including Canada and Mexico), the reaction is pretty much the same. People are just laughing their faces off and having a great time. That can be really buoying when you get onstage every night even if you’ve had a rough day or are feeling a little under the weather. When people start laughing, you’re right there! It’s really a treat!
Considering the subject matter of the show (religion), you’ve never had any overt
protestors or disturbances from the audience?
Oh no. The show’s been around since 2011. So, most people have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting themselves into when they come to see the show these days. So, no, I haven’t experienced anything like that.
Have you ever been to Memphis?
I have, yeah! I came through town a couple of years ago with the tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. I had a great time in Memphis!
Is there anything you want potential audience members who don’t know much about this show to know when deciding whether or not to buy tickets?
You can come in expecting the comedy, and, of course, that’s going to be there, but I
think what a lot of people can be surprised about this show is the heart that the show has and the message. You know, whatever you believe in, if it’s helping people or making the world a better place, then that’s valid too. There doesn’t have to be any one right way or wrong way to do things. I think there’s a great message of friendship, love and acceptance, as well. So, I think there’s a lot more than just the hilarity and the offensive nature of some of the lyrics on the surface and people have really connected in ways that might not have expected.
From your mouth to God’s ears.
November 5-10, 2019