As good of friends as they are, their differences run deep. The son of mega-producer Marc Platt (Wicked, If/Then), Platt comes from a hugely musical family. “I can’t really remember a time before musical theater was talked about every day,” says Platt, who briefly joined the national tour of Caroline, or Change at just 11. Rouleau had the opposite experience, growing up in a family of non-singing athletes (that rare breed) before finding footing as a musical theater student at NYU. “My parents were really supportive but they didn’t know the first thing about theater. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into,” says Rouleau, whose post-graduate bookings would include a national tour of Legally Blonde and a stint as Woody in Toy Story: The Musical on Disney Cruise Lines.
Their differences also stretch into their approach to the show. Platt gets into full mic and make-up almost 90 minutes before the show; Rouleau puts on his costume with five minutes to curtain. Rouleau warms up with rigorous technical vocal drills; Platt belts The Last Five Years. “The walls are thin, and I’ll just hear Ben belting for Jesus,” laughs Rouleau. “We’re completely the opposite.”
They’re both flattered by the esteem that comes part and parcel with the show’s acclaim. Fans swarm the stage door daily, handing them letters and gifts and personalized Build-a-Bears (“Mine has a lightsaber that lights up!” Platt gushes). They’ve even experienced the rare encounter that happens with Mormon — the infamous Religious Epiphany. “We had this one girl in Chicago who was a practicing Mormon who, throughout the show, decided that she no longer wanted to practice the faith and had the breakdown at the stage door,” recalls Rouleau. “That was probably the heaviest experience we’ve had.”
But there’s a grueling side to the adoration. Mormon may be one of the most coveted jobs on Broadway, but it’s also perhaps the one with the most hype — and with great hype comes even greater pressure to impress ticket-buyers who arrive at the theatre with certain expectations.
“When it’s a matinee and it’s cold outside and no one is responding, sometimes I’ll feel myself pushing harder to try to get a response, and that really only sends them further away,” says Platt. “You just have to sit back and trust the narrative, and give them just as good a show as every other show you’re going to do that week.”
The Broadway production hasn’t fallen below 100 percent house capacity (standing room is alive and well at the Eugene O’Neill) since it opened in March 2011. The show attracts almost 9,000 theatergoers each week, grossing an average $1.5 million per eight-performance week. Expectations are high, especially as the show continues to sell out its tour and just took home four Olivier Awards for the West End production.
“Especially in year three, everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into,” adds Rouleau. “There’s a lot less shock value, so people sometimes sit back like, ‘All right, show us what you got.’ And especially with a new group and not a lot of the original cast anymore, you almost have to work that much harder to hook people in.”
That’s why Platt and Rouleau are taking this whole thing in stride, not letting the pressure get to them and instead basking in the knowledge that each one is undertaking this adventurous Mormon mission with a best friend at his side. There’s a camaraderie between them that makes it easy to spend seven days a week with each other, whether they’re singing for 1,000 people or giggling alone in their dressing room watching YouTube videos.
“I just feel like it’s so often you get co-stars where there’s so much drama, and we were so afraid that was going to happen,” says Platt. “But for Nic and I, it’s been the total opposite, right from the start. We have no drama.”
Never has a lack of drama been so welcome in the theater.