Quick road to success for ‘Mormon’ performer

When “The Book of Mormon” gets a little bit old, Cody Jamison Strand will move forward with the rest
Denee Benton and Cody Jamison Strand in a scene from "The Book of Mormon." (Joan Marcus)
Denee Benton and Cody Jamison Strand in a scene from "The Book of Mormon." (Joan Marcus)

Categories: Entertainment

When “The Book of Mormon” gets a little bit old, Cody Jamison Strand will move forward with the rest of his life. He doesn’t, however, expect that to happen anytime soon.

“I’ve done over 1,000 performances and it hasn’t got old yet,” said Strand, who plays Elder Cunningham in the nine-time Tony Award-winner coming to Proctors for six days beginning next Tuesday. “I’m going to keep riding this train as long as they want me.”

A native of Brandon, South Dakota, just outside of Sioux Falls, Strand graduated from the University of South Dakota in 2012. He moved to New York City that summer, worked at a Mexican restaurant while auditioning for shows, and then landed the gig of his young lifetime when he got the role of Elder Cunningham with the national tour of “Mormon” in November of that year. His quick road to success left some of his friends a little envious.

‘The Book of Mormon’

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: Opens Tuesday and runs through Oct. 25; show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $130-$30

MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org

“I worked at a glorified Chipotle’s and hung out with a few friends, but I did have an agent and he got me the audition with ‘Mormon,” ’ said Strand. “Yes, it was absolutely unbelievable. I tell people my story and they give me that fake smile and say, ‘oh, I’m so happy for you.’ Yeah, maybe they’re a little jealous because I was incredibly lucky.”

But he’s also incredibly talented. After a year on the national tour of “Mormon,” he did the role on Broadway for nearly a year, and is now back with the national tour.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference between doing the show on Broadway or out on tour,” said Strand. “It’s basically identical. The difference is that while you’re doing it on Broadway you have a home. On tour you’re a nomad. It’s great to be on tour and to travel around the country and see all the sights. That’s all pretty exciting, but I would like to have my own kitchen again. I don’t want to be on the road forever. I want to have a home. I want my own kitchen.”

The Book of Mormon was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and lyricist Robert Lopez (“Frozen” and “Avenue Q”), and according to Strand it is the show’s humor, music and message that have made it such a tremendous success.

“It’s the funniest show written in the last decade, it’s smart and it has a message,” he said. “People go into it thinking ‘South Park,’ and they’re surprised that it also has an incredible level of maturity about it, about what they’re trying to say. With the current state of organized religion in the world, I think it sends a very good message.”

Strand grew up going to a small Assemblies of God church in his hometown. His father was the minister.

“I don’t go to church much anymore,” joked Strand. “I work on Sundays. You can imagine I was a bit nervous when my parents first saw it, but they liked it. My father’s seen it about 15 times now. He loves it.”

When his “Mormon” run ends, there is yet another classic sidekick role Strand feels like he’s destined to play.

“I do love ‘Man of La Mancha,’ ” he said. “Elder Cunningham is my dream role, and I don’t think there’s been another one like it, at least not of this magnitude. But I want to play Sancho Panza. ‘The Man of LaMancha’ is probably my favorite score; I love the music, and I love the character of Pancho Sanza. That’s my other dream role.”

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]

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