Haddonfield native plays lead Broadway role

By ROBERT LINNEHAN

One year he’s playing Judd Fry in a Haddonfield Memorial High School drama production of “Oklahoma,” and, eight years later, he’s the new lead role of the hottest musical on Broadway.

Cale Krise, 27, was named as the lead role of “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway in late June and has been performing eight shows a week since his Tuesday, June 26 debut as Elder Cunningham in the Tony Award-winning musical.

Written by “South Park” co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, “The Book of Mormon” is one of the most in-demand musicals playing on Broadway. The show tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to a village in Uganda where they try to spread the word of the Book of Mormon to the villagers. Unfortunately, a local warlord thwarts their missionary efforts.

Debuting in March of 2011, the production has gone on to win nine Tony Awards, one of which was a best musical award, and a Grammy for best musical theater award.

Krise took over the role of Elder Cunningham from the original Broadway performer Josh Gad after several auditions and even more callbacks. It was an interesting return for Krise, who three years ago went in for an original casting call before the 2011 opening date.

For the past three years Krise has been honing his chops in the off-Broadway production of a musical called “Fat Camp,” which he performed in 2009 at the New York Music Theater Festival.

The production was so well received that it was picked up by the producers of “Rock of Ages,” and it toured around the country for several years, Krise said.

It opened up officially off-Broadway on April and ran through May. During this time, Krise began to audition for “Book of Mormon” and kept getting called back for more and more run-throughs and performances.

Finally he was told that he was going to be brought in for a final audition in front of some special guests.

“I went in several times. Each time I went in there were a ton of people in the room, and, in the final one, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino were all in my audition,” he said. “Everyone was there, the whole creative team of the musical. It was nerve-wracking, for sure. I came in and said ‘hello everyone’ and went into my audition.”

Later that night, around 9 p.m., Krise said his agent called him from a New York Yankees game and said he had just gotten word that the role of Elder Cunningham was his.

Krise said his experiences at the HMHS drama club helped him channel certain qualities that made him better at performing in auditions.

“My experiences with the drama club were great. The Haddonfield Drama Club is a little bit smaller than some in South Jersey, but I always had some great roles. I got to work on a lot of shows,” he said. “Paula Meyer helped me a lot with my voice. Scott Glading actually called NYU when I was being considered for the university and spoke with a recruiter for the school. He helped me get in.”

His first performance? A nerve-wracking show on Tuesday, June 26 that apparently gave him amnesia.

“I got out on stage for my first entrance, it’s a big entrance, he interrupts the opening song, and the lights were so bright, I couldn’t see any of the audience it was my first time doing it with a microphone,” Krise said. “I don’t remember too much, I don’t even remember the first time when I left the stage toward the end of act one. It was insane.”

But now Krise is in a groove. That’s what happens when you perform twice a day – except on Sunday and Monday – and he’s got his show ritual down. He brews tea before each performance and enjoys a cup to keep his voice healthy after his break in act two.

Want to know more about the production? Want to purchase tickets to a show in the future (good luck trying)? Visit the “Book of Mormon” website at www.bookofmormonbroadway.com.