Looking in the mirror, Matthew Marks saw clones of himself in every direction.
He was in the thick of it, a number alongside hundreds of other young and bouncy brunettes, just trying to differentiate his tapping from the one next to him.
It was 2010, and The Book of Mormon was heading directly to Broadway early the next year after only developmental workshops. This was his fifth time in front of the creative team for the Broadway production.
It seemed to be going well, but smiles, bright eyes and sitting forward in chairs couldn’t keep at bay the dark thoughts that slinked around about why nothing came from the other four auditions.
“I’m just waiting for them to realize I’m not as talented as they think I am,” Marks thought.
Imposter syndrome is something he still struggles with to this day. Booking the job wouldn’t even mark his Broadway debut – he was a vacation swing in the 2009 revival of West Side Story – but something about this time felt different.
Perhaps it was The Book of Mormon’s “kind of pedestrian choreography” in comparison to the complicated Jerome Robbins reproduction from his previous gig, but Marks knew that this experience would be more enjoyable. Maybe that’s what fueled him.
Finally, the team decided to throw him a bone. They took Marks to a small office room, told him to turn off his phone and handed him the highly secretive script that was still in development. It was the first time he would have any idea what this show – now one of the hottest tickets on Broadway and beyond – could offer.
He poured over every word, devouring the narrative and soaking in the moments of humor and heart. Marks knew that this was his job.
And a couple weeks later, he was confirmed. He got the call to start as a vacation swing for a full year, opening with the original Broadway company. When Marks’ friend Nick Spangler left the show, he took over as a full-time swing.
Now, Marks has been in The Book of Mormon on Broadway as a swing for the past eight years.
Ask him about his favorite song from the show or onstage mishaps, and he’ll be undeniably candid that while being on Broadway is every bit as dazzling as he dreamed while growing up in Baltimore, performing is just his job.
“Being present and not spacing out – it’s the work,” he said. “That is the work eight years in.”
But just because he can do the choreography and harmonies for every Mormon boy track in his sleep, that doesn’t mean this is where his dreams end.
He would love to do another show, but Marks said he won’t consider leaving The Book of Mormon until he can no longer pass for 19. Stability of paycheck and time is an offer too good to throw away.
“I watch other people go from show to show, that seems so exciting,” he said. “And they’re looking at me going, ‘God, you’ve been in a Broadway show for this long. That seems so great.’ So I mean, the grass is always greener. But as far as the day to day for what I think of as monotony, it makes me feel good.”
While staying present onstage is hard work after eight years, there is no shortage of adrenaline. When Marks finds out he is going on, he’ll normally just think through the track in five minutes while on the train into Manhattan.
A handful of times, though, he’s had to go on in the middle of the show.
“No time shaving, no time doing my hair, barely getting a costume on, not getting a mic on for that first scene,” he said, describing the rush of a mid-performance swing-in. “Two stage managers, head of wardrobe, any dresser that’s free, the head of the hair department flock on you and just shove you into place. I’ve gone on with two minutes to spare.”
Back in 2010 when he was painfully enduring audition after audition for the musical still in its infancy, he never imagined the impact it would have on the theatre community globally.
With two U.S. national tours, a Chicago company, a West End company, a U.K. tour, an Australian national tour and productions in Sweden, Norway, Germany and more, The Book of Mormon now goes far beyond a young and green Marks in that small office reading the secret script in 2010.
As long as the musical is playing on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, rest assured that Marks will be there covering the Mormon boys. Despite the challenges, it is still his dream job.
“It’s a lot easier to sit back and enjoy the ride when you know you’re part of something good,” he said. “A Broadway show’s a Broadway show – but it’s nice to know that at the end of the day, it is a really good piece of theatre.”