Nikki M. James, who grew up performing on Livingston stages, is winning rave reviews on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, which opened Thursday night at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.
The New York Times glows in its praise of the play: “I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water,” writes the venerable critic Ben Brantley.
James shined throughout her performances at LHS and went on to graduate from NYU’s Tisch School, where she received a BFA in drama. She made her Broadway debut in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, appeared in All Shook Up, and received critical acclaim at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where she appeared as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Cleopatra opposite Christopher Plummer in Caesar and Cleopatra.
Back on Broadway, the New York Times says " … sweet but savvy Nikki M. James gives a lovely, funny performance, never winking at her character’s earnestness.”
James plays the role of Nabalungi in The Book of Mormon, a young African girl swept up in a promise of hope and salvation by Josh Gad ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart") and Andrew Rannells (Jersey Boys), an unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries who venture from Salt Lake City to AIDS-ravaged Uganda. They hope to convert villagers with the story of Joseph Smith and the founding of the Mormon Church. The problem is: Only one of them has actually read the book.
The play was written by "South Park" co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker and Avenue Q Tony winner Robert Lopez
In a recent interview in Playbill, James reminisces about growing up in Livingston, the town next door the Paper Mill Playhouse, “so I grew up seeing all the shows.”
She also performed on all the town’s stages. “The first time I performed for people was at my kindergarten graduation … and I sang 'The Greatest Love of All' at my kindergarten graduation 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 dedicates her performances to her father, who passed away her senior year of high school. "He's definitely the driving force in my belief in myself as an actor and performer," she says in the interview with Playbill.
Performances of The Book of Mormon are Tuesday-Thursday @ 7 p.m., Friday @ 8 p.m., Saturday @ 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., Sunday @ 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Buy tickets by calling (212) 239-6200. The Eugene O'Neil Theater is located at 230 W. 49th St, NYC.