Actor Cody Jamison Strand tells us why we should go see The Book of Mormon

By Stephanie Harris

February 11, 2016

Hopefully when you bought your tickets to The Book of Mormon, appearing at the Belk Theater later this month, you weren’t purchasing in hopes of seeing a panel of renowned leaders from the Latter Day Saints discuss religion. If you did, your date will likely be relieved at your mistake. In fact, you may even be pleasantly surprised by the events that unfold onstage.

We tracked down Cody Jamison Strand, who plays Elder Cunningham in the touring production of the show, to help explore five reasons why you should feel ecstatic about seeing The Book of Mormon in Charlotte this month.

Book of Mormon Tour
Cody Jamison Strand ad Elder Cunningham (Right). Photo credit Joan Marcus

1.) The Book of Mormon is from the same dudes who brought you South Park.

Chances are you’ve seen at least a scene or two from the animated TV series, South Park. If you haven’t seen the show for yourself, you’ve certainly heard someone quote or reference it in some way.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo who brought you South Park and Team America: World Police, are also responsible for The Book of Mormon. The same unfiltered, unflinching style of commentary and comedy present on the animated phenomenon also shows up live on stage in this show.

“I love South Park. They [Stone and Parker] have such a talent for writing incredibly funny episodes while also not holding any punches about how pointed they are being in their message,” explains Strand.  

2.) Nothing is off limits!

You know how you’re supposed to cringe a little at what are often deemed inappropriate jokes or comments, but really you just want to chuckle? For two hours and 30 minutes, you can just let go. There’s no such thing as “inappropriate” here. You get to laugh just because, well, sometimes things that are supposed to be serious are simply funny! Embrace the blasphemy. No one offers it up more beautifully than these guys.

“Stone and Parker and irreverence go hand in hand,” Strand says. “It’s in their blood!  And by now they’ve created such a beautiful marriage between the shocking and the hilarious that it’s reached a level of genius that you don’t really see anywhere else. I feel like people really respond to that.”

3.) Comedy + Music = Your Favorite Things

Musicals can be sappy. Or sad. Or sometimes emotionally draining. How often do you get to see a show that has award-winning music and keeps you laughing with thoughtful satire throughout? Strand was drawn to the show from his first experience with the music.

“I saw The Book of Mormon on my Spring Break back in 2012, my senior year of college. I had heard the music and knew that I had to see it,” Strand recalls. “I remember I was sitting next to this little old lady and we kinda went through the entire spectrum of emotion throughout. It was an incredible theatrical experience.”

The Book of Mormon maintains a brilliant balance of smart satire and magnificent music. While immersed in the show, you’ll have no question of why Stone, Parker and Robert Lopez won the Tony® Award for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original score in 2011, in addition to numerous other awards.

Book of Mormon Tour
Book of Mormon Tour. Photo by Joan Marcus

4.) Laughter isn’t isolated to the audience.

Sometimes you watch a friend do something funny and you laugh, but when you see the actors laughing at themselves while they are acting, you laugh even harder. Yeah. Sometimes that happens with The Book of Mormon.

Strand admits, “This show is incredibly funny. I still catch myself giggling at things…Funny stuff happens, like, things that aren’t supposed to happen, and that’s the beauty of live theatre.  And sometimes we laugh!”

5.) “If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point?”

Strand makes a good observation with that question. There are plenty of things that you may take seriously — religion, illness, racism. But at the end of the day, laughter is common ground for everyone and, without it, life would lack, well… liveliness!

Strand’s background may be a surprise, given the content of The Book of Mormon, and the satire at play. He’s not all that different from the character he portrays on stage.

“I grew up in a religious household, my dad is a pastor! So I think I have a bit of insight into the religious world. I’ve been on mission trips of my own,” he says. “But besides that, I’m also a little bizarre. My mom always tells me when she sees me, it’s like watching 4-year-old Cody unleashed up on stage.  Maybe I’ve always had a little crazy in me, who knows!”

If, after reading all of these reasons as to why you should go check out The Book of Mormon, you’re still not totally convinced, why not go anyway? Take Strand’s advice and jump in to enjoy the adventure.

“The best way to see this show is going in blind. You’ll really take the journey with us then. I hope you leave with a sense of human pride:  We can do this.  We can fix this planet. We can heal our hearts,” he says. “You just have to laugh at yourself a little bit along the way.”

Catch The Book Of Mormon from February 23 – March 6 in Charlotte at Belk Theater 

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