WHEN actor Stephen Ashfield stood in the wings, waiting to make his Broadway debut, he had some pre-show jitters. Not about walking out on stage to thousands of people – having spent the past 14 years in London’s West End, he was used to that – but about a US audience seeing through his American accent.

The actor, who grew up and trained in Glasgow, had been performing in Book of Mormon’s UK production for the past three years, where the predominantly British cast performed in American accents. Now, 3,500 miles away amid the bright lights of New York’s theatreland, he was sure that he would be recognised as an imposter. “I had two weeks to rehearse when I arrived,” he explains. “My first thought was: everyone is going to know that I’m not American. They’re going to watch the show and think that I’m an imposter.”

After that first show, which went without a hitch, Ashfield went to stage door to sign autographs for fans. When he spoke to them in his native twang, they were surprised. “That was my big test and I realised then that I had passed,” he laughs. “Then they asked if I was Irish.”

Ashfield, originally from the east end of Glasgow, first discovered a love of musicals as a schoolboy at Smithycroft Secondary in Riddrie. He went on to complete a four-year degree in music and classical singing at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama – now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – before heading to the Royal Academy of Music in London to pursue musical theatre in 2001.

He made his West End debut a year later, joining productions including Jersey Boys and Legally Blonde, before landing a coveted role in the Book of Mormon in 2013. He spent three years playing Elder McKinley until, one day, he got an out-of-the-blue phone call asking him if he wanted to relocate to New York. He jumped at the chance.

“It is every actor’s dream - you want to go to Broadway,” Ashfield explains. “When I was in Jersey Boys, we talked about me going over there. It never happened but I always wanted it so, while I wasn’t expecting the [Book of Mormon] call, I didn’t have to think too hard about it.”

The Book of Mormon made quite a splash when it debuted on Broadway. Since opening in 2011 it has gone on to become one of the most successful musicals of all time, and is now one of the 20 longest-running Broadway shows. Now a UK tour will stop in Aberdeen and Edinburgh in May and June 2020, where fans have already snatched up thousands of tickets.

The religious satire, created by the writers and composers behind South Park, Avenue Q and Frozen, follows two Mormon missionaries as they attempt to share their scriptures with the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village who are grappling with more pressing concerns such as AIDS, famine, and oppression by a warlord. The New York Times' Ben Brantley said the musical, which led this year's Tony nominations, is "more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak ... [but its] heart is as pure as that of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show."

Ashfield can understand the long-running enthusiasm for the show, not least because he shares it himself. “The genius of the musical is that it is so well constructed,” he explains. “It is Matt Stone, Robert Lopez, Trey Parker’s homage to every they love about musical theatre… there is the South Park connection, they just know humour.” But the show hasn’t coasted on laughs alone. “It’s so funny and lively but also incredibly heart-warming. It keeps the audience on its toes.”

And the actor has grown extremely fond of his character, Elder McKinley, even if it was not the role he originally set out to play more than six years ago. Back when Book of Mormon was making its West End debut, he was put up for an audition for the lead role of Elder Price. “I went back for so many recalls,” Ashfield remembers. “After that long, I had really invested so much in it. I felt like, ‘you know what, I can do this’.”

When producers suggested a different role, he was initially unsure. Now he cannot imagine it any other way. McKinley is one of the leading Mormon elders and the Church's current District Leader in Uganda. He is secretly gay, but in denial of his feelings, prompting him to have ‘Hell dreams’. He also has an unsubtle crush on Elder Price. “I have the best track in the show,” Ashfield says. “I just get to go out there and have fun.”

Having walked in Elder McKinley’s shoes for six years, Ashfield knows there will come a time to move on to the next role. “There is a line in the show that goes ‘now that I am 19’, because that is the age Mormons can be called to go on their missions, and I like to say that I am talking a bit of a liberty being quite a bit older than that,” he laughs. “But I know I can’t be 19 forever.”