This much I’ve learned about Chicago: ‘The Book of Mormon’ star Syesha Mercado

SHARE This much I’ve learned about Chicago: ‘The Book of Mormon’ star Syesha Mercado

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Please enable Javascript to watch this videoSyesha Mercado has fallen in love with Chicago.

The actress, who stars as the impossibly naive African village girl Nabulungi in the impossibly successful stage musical “The Book of Mormon,” has spent the past 11 months taking in all the city has to offer.

It’s not her first trip through here: she starred as Deena Jones in the national tour of “Dreamgirls” here, which earned her a Chicago Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination. She recently starred as Ti Moune in Peppermill Playhouse’s revival of “Once on This Island.”

Mercado is also familiar to music fans, having finished as second runner-up in season seven of “American Idol.”

Her current Chicago stay ends Oct. 6 when “Mormon” moves on to its next tour stop. (If you miss it this time around, as reported here in May, the show returns to Chicago in 2014.)

Here are some things she has learned about our city:

1) “The mayor has reinvented the bike culture in Chicago.There are tons of bike lanes here. I’m extremely health-conscious. I recently got a bike. So I’m riding around a lot, mostly along the beach.”

2) “I’ve learned the people really love their beach [season]. Everyone’s hibernating [all winter] and then summer comes and everybody’s at the beach.”

3) “I’m really picky when it comes to eating so I usually prepare and cook my own food [in my apartment] because I’m really health-conscious and it’s hard to find a place I really like. But recently I found Karen’s [Karen’s Cooked; Karen’s on Green], where they either cook the food … or serve up raw dishes [which I love]. So you can survive in Chicago among all the deep-dish pizza places and fried food if you’re a vegan, vegetarian or a raw foodie.”

Syesha Mercado & Ben Platt in “The Book of Mormon.” Photo © Joan Marcus, 2012

4) “I love to shop, and Chicago has tons of fine vintage shops and boutiques. The shirt I have on is from a vintage shop. I was just looking through racks and found it. [Laughing] It reminds me of Michael Jackson.”

5) “Cab drivers here are just as mean as the cab drivers in New York. I’ve had the worst experiences with cab drivers here.”

“The Book of Mormon,” runs through Oct. 6, Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. For tickets, visit

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