"I will not lie," Rannells laughed. "I will not try to be cool about that. I turned it on, and I watched them!"
"I was so happy to hear [co-star] Josh [Gad]'s name, and then to hear mine in addition was really fantastic. I'm so happy that we're both recognized, and the whole show. Oh my God, I don't think we could've asked for a better outcome!" That outcome included a total of 14 Tony nominations, the most of any production of the season. "It's insane," he added. "I mean, we obviously were optimistic, but you never know how these things are going to play out, so I think we were all cautiously optimistic, but this is fantastic."
In the musical from Emmy Award-winning "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q Tony Award winner Robert Lopez, Rannells and Gad star as an unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries who venture from Salt Lake City to Uganda in the hopes of converting villagers with the story of Joseph Smith and the founding of the Mormon Church. The problem: Only one of them has actually read the book.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Rannells, who is Tony-nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, said his biggest challenge "was getting over my anxiety about working with Trey and Matt and Bobby, just because I was so intimidated, initially, to walk into rehearsal and try to be funny for them. But they provided such a great working environment, and I was immediately relaxed with them, and I trusted them, and they trusted me. They could not have been more generous with me and the material. That was a big psychological hurdle to get over, but they sort of fixed that right away." And, what has been the most exciting aspect of the Mormon ride for the actor, whose previous Broadway outings include leading roles in Jersey Boys and Hairspray?
"This morning is really unbelievable," answered Rannells, "but when I was cast in this show, I felt like I won the lottery, so that in itself was so huge, and then just getting a chance to do it every night and having the show be received so well by the community and by the audience. The whole thing has just been more than I think anyone could have ever asked for or expected.
"I thought [the show] was hilarious, and I thought it was very smart, and I think that all of us working on it really loved it, but you never know how people are actually going to react to it, so the fact that people are coming with the right attitude and seeing it in the right spirit is just fantastic."