Alumnus performs in critically acclaimed Broadway musical
Michael James Scott left Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts halfway through his senior year to follow his dream of becoming an actor. Now, after starring in over 20 productions, he’s appearing in his seventh Broadway play “The Book of Mormon,” directed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park.
Scott’s involvement in “The Book of Mormon” began seven years ago, when Scott said Parker and Stone were trying to decide if their next project would be a movie or a play. He was asked by the play’s music director to come and pitch ideas for the musical. At that time, the play’s script was only 27 pages long.
“I got to create and suggest stuff for the show, and then they (Parker and Stone) would build on it,” Scott said. “They truly are amazing writers.”
Though one might expect many surprises while working on a set with the creators of South Park, Scott said that the pair is very low-key.
“The real surprise comes in the scenes,” Scott said.
He’s referring to a particular scene in the play where the actors sing a song called “Hasa Dega Ebowai.” While singing, the actors raise their middle fingers to the sky after revealing to the audience that the title of the song means, “Fuck you, God.”
“It took all of us like, five times to be able to actually say it,” Scott said with a laugh. “It’s just insanely extreme.”
Scott began his professional career on the national tour of the play “Fosse” in 1999. Though Scott left Webster, he was still enrolled in school and felt the stress of performing both artistically and academically.
“I had no senior showcase, but I still put in tons of work,” Scott said. “I did rehearsals during the day, shows at night and homework during any spare minute I had. I eventually came back to walk with my class, so everything was worth it.”
Scott soon moved to New York City and got his first role on Broadway as Eddie in the play “Mamma Mia!” His role began the same year the national tour of “Fosse” ended. Scott continued to succeed on Broadway, starring in plays like “All Shook Up,” “Tarzan,” “Hair” and “Elf: The Musical.”
“Michael has enjoyed a lot of success,” said Conservatory professor Bruce Longworth. “He’s been consistently employed because of his great talent and because his qualities as a human being make people want to have him in their show.”
Scott, like most people, has also experienced his fair share of rejection while auditioning in New York City.
“It gets hard,” he said. “Rejection is what this business is made of.”
Scott now says he doesn’t take rejection personally. In the acting world, he said, “No means ‘Not right now,’ or ‘Maybe it’s not the right project for you.’ ”
Scott used his experience with success and rejection to market himself in different ways for different roles.
“You just have to believe in yourself and your talent, and truly believe you’re something special,” Scott said. “If you know what you can offer and really believe it, you’ll get to where you want to be.
Though Scott graduated from Webster more than a decade ago, he still makes time to come back and be involved with the Conservatory. Kat Singleton, Conservatory professor, said Scott came back with another Conservatory grad, Hunter Bell, in January 2011 to give students feedback on their New York Showcase pieces.
“I had them booked the entire time they were here, and they still found a way to squeeze in time to talk to current Conservatory students,” Singleton said. “He is always finding ways to give back to our program. I consider Michael a dear friend.”
“The Book of Mormon” will be on Broadway until February 2012. After the play comes to an end, Scott said he hopes to continue his career on Broadway and in New York.
“I’m very blessed,” Scott said. “I know that nobody can get in my way.”