As nominations for the Tony Awards were announced, two Livingston graduates were among 14 nominated for their work on The Book of Mormon: Actress Nikki M. James and Stephen Oremus, the show's musical director.
The Book of Mormon has been an unlikely hit about two Mormon missionaries who find more than they bargained for in Africa. The musical was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the popular animated series “South Park,” and Robert Lopez, co-creator of the Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q.”
The play nabbed a leading 14 Tony Award nominations Tuesday morning, for best musical, best book of a musical, best original score, two leading actor spots and two featured actor nominations, among others.
James earned her nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. She plays the role of Nabalungi, a young African girl swept up in a promise of hope and salvation.
James grew up on Livingston stages and went on to graduate from NYU’s Tisch School, receiving a BFA in drama. She made her Broadway debut in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, appeared in All Shook Up, and received critical acclaim when she appeared opposite Christopher Plumber at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival playing Cleopatra to Plumber’s Caesar.
During a recent interview in Playbill, reminisced about growing up in Livingston and attending plays at the Paper Mill Playhouse, “I grew up seeing all the shows,” James said.
“The first time I performed for people was at my kindergarten graduation … and I sang 'The Greatest Love of All' all by myself, all the way through. I don't know if people get a performing bug at five years old, but soon after that, I was always doing school plays, from that moment on, and seeing lots of musicals,” James said.
Oremus shares the Best Orchestration nomination with Larry Hochman. He has an impressive list of credentials, including music supervisor/arranger of Wicked, music supervisor/vocal arranger/orchestrator of Avenue Q, music supervisor/vocal arranger/co-orchestrator of All Shook Up; and vocal arranger of High Fidelity. He is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Speaking to Berklee Today, Oremus talked about his career. "A few high-profile off-Broadway shows launched things for me,” he said. “I was involved in the creation of a new musical, The Wild Party, written by Andrew Lippa. Working with him cleaning up the vocal parts was a life-altering experience. It told me what I should be doing."
As to the future, he said, “As long as there are shows that I think are really cool and that I can bring something to, I will keep doing it. This has turned into an amazing journey."
The awards will be handed out June 12 at a new location: the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan after producers lost their long-term space at Radio City Music Hall. It will be broadcast live by CBS.