When the Broadway Across America tour of “The Book of Mormon” makes a pit stop in Louisville this week, you can bet Louisville native Kayla Pecchioni, who plays lead Nabulungi in the production, will be showing her castmates all the best spots to hit in town during their limited free time.
The musical comedy debuted on Broadway in 2011 and garnered nine Tony Awards that year. Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame and Robert Lopez, who co-wrote the musical “Avenue Q,” the story follows two Mormon missionaries as they journey to a remote Ugandan village.
Pecchioni is leading the second national tour of “The Book of Mormon,” which will take the New York City-based actress all around the country. But you may be surprised to learn that acting wasn’t something she pursued while growing up in Louisville until her final year at the Youth Performing Arts School.
Pecchioni was a dancer at first and competed on various dance teams throughout junior high and high school. She even attended YPAS as a dance major.
“While I was there, I realized I didn’t want to follow that typical dancer path of being a part of a dance company — it just didn’t hold my interest,” she tells Insider. “I think I desired something flashier. It wasn’t until my friends invited me to audition for the new musical theater minor program (which YPAS introduced in 2009) that I realized I could apply my dance skills into theater, and I fell in love there.”
Pecchioni graduated from YPAS in 2010 and then attended college at Northern Kentucky University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in musical theater. After that, she traveled the world, performing for RWS Entertainment Group and various regional theaters — and even for the Norwegian Cruise Lines.
She’s looking forward to coming back to Louisville, even if it’s only for six days. She mostly misses her friends and family since moving, and the city will always have a place close to her heart.
“I truly love and am proud of my hometown. So anytime I come home, I try to take about an hour or two to myself to drive past my old homes, schools and favorite spots — just to feel grounded again,” she says. “And I get the most excited to be home whenever I know my dad has an extra ticket to a UofL football game.”
Pecchioni doesn’t know what the future holds for her, so instead, she opts to live in the now and enjoy the time on the tour.
“I love that I can’t predict the future,” she says. “Before joining ‘Mormon,’ I’d never thought I’d be leading a show, so this show opened up a lot of doors for me already because I’d previously closed them off to myself. I love this show and plan to stay as long as I can, and I’m excited to see what I surprise myself with next.”
Before the curtain rises at the Kentucky Center Tuesday night, we caught up with Pecchioni to ask her some very important questions …
What was your first concert?
My mom took me to the old Kentucky fairgrounds in elementary school to see Britney Spears because I was such a super fan. She was the sponsor for milk at that time, so I have a Polaroid photo from the concert of me posed with her cardboard cutout while wearing fake milk mustaches.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
I could talk forever about who is on this — or any — season of “The Bachelor” for “the wrong reasons.” I’ve been watching the show since its first season in 2002 when I was 10 years old!
What job would you be terrible at?
Growing up I thought I wanted to become a surgeon, like my aunt. Now that I see what that fully entails, I think I’d be a very choosy and inconsistent surgeon. I can do blood, but there are certain things you just can’t unsee!
What is your favorite restaurant or bar?
In Louisville? It probably sounds underwhelming to most, but I love going to El Nopal when I’m in town. When I was in high school, it’d be the place to go for family dinners and gatherings with my friends. And I always get the same thing — a cheese quesadilla with a side of rice and refried beans and a Coke.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once?
I highly suggest living in another country for at least a couple of months. I’ve traveled to a lot of countries, but in 2016, I lived and worked in Korea for four months. You grow and learn so much when you travel and fully immerse yourself in another culture, even as an adult.
Where would you direct a newcomer of Louisville to get a feel for the city?
Bardstown Road, in my opinion, is the soul of Louisville.
What keeps people here in Louisville?
Innovation. You get so many worlds here. The city, the country, great entertainment, even better food — and it all just keeps developing really beautifully.