The 27-year-old Rock Island High alum is now in New York City, rehearsing a new national tour of the multiple Tony winner, and will be music director/conductor for the shows through next summer.
Moss is no stranger to the hilarious musical from the creators of “South Park.” He played keyboard and conducted many performances when “Book of Mormon” toured the U.S. and Mexico in 2019 (about five to six months altogether), including the last one in Peoria in January 2020.
In the first run, Moss was on the road off and on in several week-long increments. His first performance was playing in the tour when it was at Davenport’s Adler Theatre in June 2018.
“The Adler was my first-ever shot at it, and it was through my experience subbing on that, that they actually offered me the vacation swing spot afterwards,” Moss said Monday in an interview from New York.
“It was really awesome to play in my hometown,” he said. “To have the support of people, I was also a little terrified in that moment, you know what I mean? Because it’s such a huge show and then the key 2 book is so important, like it controls all the doorbells and it has several other big things that are sort of critical to the overall sound design of the show.”
“I could not be more happy for him. He deserves it so much,” Sara Tubbs, co-owner of Moline’s Spotlight Theatre, said Monday of Moss. “He’s just incredible. He is an incredible person to work with. They are so lucky to have him. We’ve worked with him for a few years now and he’s just fantastic.”
“The Book of Mormon” has music, lyrics, and book by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. First staged in 2011, the musical is a satirical examination of the beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Still on Broadway with over 4,000 performances, it will soon surpass “Miss Saigon” as the 13th longest-running show in Broadway history.
The show earned nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The original Broadway cast recording became the highest-charting Broadway cast album in over four decades.
Too fun to get tired of
“Book of Mormon” is a show that’s hard to tire of playing, Moss said Monday.
“It’s really an easy show to continue working on for a long period of time because the material is so right. It’s so comedic and it’s very satirical,” he said.
“If I were to compare doing a show like this on a nightly basis to doing a show like ‘Les Miz’ or ‘Wicked’ or something that has a lot heavier content, that would be a lot harder for me,” Moss said, noting “Mormon” is so upbeat, fast-paced, and energetic.
The musical has a nine-person orchestra, including a conductor and associate conductor who each are on keyboards. The orchestration is exactly the same as the first tour, and the first time, Moss had to be responsible for 250-plus “patches” (meaning instruments and sound effects like the many doorbells) on the keyboard.
He enjoys conducting and playing keyboard (without conducting) equally.
“Each one brings its own challenges and also its own exciting parts,” Moss said. “There’s times that I really enjoy playing key 2 because it’s just the sort of chance to sit back and relax and groove, and play some more layered stuff and then there’s times that I really enjoy playing key 1 (conductor), because you’re keeping everything together. And sort of making sure that the ship is staying afloat.”
He sought the job after seeing an online article in February, noting the new tour was planned.
“I reached out to some colleagues of mine that I knew were involved in the show previously and just expressed my interest in the opportunity,” Moss said, “not really expecting anything besides just saying how good an experience I had previously.”
The biggest difference between this tour and the former tour is that this one is non-Equity (with non-union performers).
“It was a bit of luck but also a little bit of forward momentum on my part,” to get the new gig, Moss said.
Des Moines and Rockford on tour
He started rehearsals a week ago, after the show was cast, and will open previews Sept. 14 in a theater in Utica, N.Y., for two and a half weeks (the last two performances open to the public). The tour formally opens Sept. 27 in Hershey, Penn., and Moss is contracted to conduct through early July 2023.
“Regardless of it being Equity or not Equity, the cast are all very top notch. They all are at the top of their game,” he said, noting several actors are in their first national tour of any show.
“So we’ve got in a way some youthful exuberance that’s being brought to the show, some new life is being brought to the show,” Moss said. Of all the cast and crew, he’s one of very few who has any “Book of Mormon” experience.
“Everything from day one, it’s been teaching everything from scratch, which is kind of great because it allows us to redevelop things from the ground up,” he said.
Having a younger cast is very fitting, since true Mormon missionaries are usually 19-24 years old, Moss said. While this tour won’t stop in the QC, it will be in the Midwest in many stops. They include:
- Des Moines, Oct. 7-9
- Wausau, Wis., Oct. 18-19
- Rockford, Ill., Jan. 20, 2023
- Chicago, March 28-April 16, 2023
“The nice thing about this show and going to non-union is that it allows them to visit some smaller markets or some markets that they haven’t been able to hit previously,” Moss said.
Extensive QC musical experience
He has had extensive music directing experience for QC theaters – including the Spotlight Theatre’s “Tuck Everlasting” and “The Lightning Thief” this year, last year’s “Winter Wonderland” (including producing tracks) at Circa ’21, and did all the arrangements for Circa’s Neil Diamond tribute concert, “Solitary Man,” starring Brad Hauskins last New Year’s Eve and earlier this month, featuring about 25 songs.
“I took all of the content and expanded it out for full rhythm section — bass, drums, guitar, keys, three background vocalists, horns and Brad singing the lead part,” Moss said Monday. “It’s a very Vegas-style show. I did all the vocal arrangements, all the horn arrangements, the medleys I put together from scratch and then I also music directed and played keyboards for the show.”
He and Hauskins are looking to bring the show to regional casinos and other theaters at some point.
Moss studied music education at Western Illinois University, and his many credits include music directing and keyboard for “Catch Me If You Can” (Music Guild) in spring 2018, as well as assistant music directing, on keyboard, “Little Shop of Horrors” (spring 2017) and “A Chorus Line” in 2018 at Guild.
He later played the Spotlight Theatre production of “Little Shop,” music directed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” there and performed keyboard for “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
Moss co-music directed “Hairspray” in fall 2018 at Alleman High School, Rock Island, and also played for Alleman’s fall 2017 show, “Grease.” Before the first “Mormon” tour, he was choir accompanist at Wilson Middle School, Moline, and served as organist/pianist for First Congregational Church UCC, in Moline.
Working on “Mormon” came about because Manny Lopez hired him as a sub for a show at the Adler Theatre in 2018, during its eight-performance tour run here. Moss has played with Lopez’s big band at The Speakeasy, Rock Island, and occasionally with touring shows which need local musicians, he said.
“It’s a very tough keyboard 2 book,” Moss said in 2019 of “Mormon,” noting the conductor plays keyboard 1. Of the Adler gig, he said: “It was a thrill, definitely a life-changing experience. It put me in that sort of big performance venue, the big tour. I knew about the show; I’m a ‘South Park’ fan. I knew the music. Getting to be there while it was happening, it was a surreal experience.”
The tour later called him to substitute for either the associate music director or conductor/music director, while they were on vacation breaks.
“Tubbs & Moss” to continue at Spotlight
Moss also has been a partner in the “Tubbs & Moss” monthly concerts at the Spotlight (1800 7th Ave., Moline), with singer and theater co-owner Sara Tubbs, specializing in jazz standards.
During the “Mormon” tour, Moss will be replaced by veteran QC pianist/singer Freddy Allen, with Moss’ brother Jon continuing on bass, with drummer Tumbleweed (Richard Vought). They will do the next three months, and Mason will return during his Christmas break in December to do a Spotlight holiday show on the main stage., before going back on tour.
That series is usually at the Spotlight’s Blueprint Bar and Lounge. The upcoming dates are Sept;. 9, Oct. 21, and Nov. 18 in the bar, and Dec. 16 on the main stage (featuring a larger band with horns, arranged by Mason, and he’ll play that one).
“I think he’ll get snatched up left and right,” Tubbs said of his life after the “Mormon” tour. “You never know what’ll happen, but no matter what, we support him 100 percent and are rooting him on and just couldn’t be more excited for him.”
“He’s on a new adventure and I think he’s going to learn a lot and have an incredible time and I just can’t wait to hear all about it,” she added.
To learn more about the “Book of Mormon” tour, click HERE.