Broadway is always churning out hits, whether they’re about singing lions or opera-loving stalkers. But some productions would rather examine the real world and reflect it on stage, albeit with an abundance of catchy tunes. This was the case with the critically acclaimed comedy musical “The Book of Mormon.” The two-act musical premiered in the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011 and is still performed in the theater to this day.
Featuring some seriously catchy songs, ribald comedy and a talented cast, “The Book of Mormon” garnered a whopping nine Tony Awards in its debut, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. But what is the acclaimed musical about? And what is “The Book of Mormon’s” original cast doing now?
What is the Musical “The Book of Mormon” About?
The hit musical “The Book of Mormon” follows the earnest efforts of two missionaries from the Church of Latter-Day Saints to convert a secluded Ugandan village into the faith.
Elder Kevin Price, originally played by Andrew Rannells, is a smug but truly devout missionary. He is partnered with Elder Arnold Cunningham, originally played by Josh Gad. Elder Cunningham is riddled with insecurities and lies compulsively. The two are sent to an impoverished village in northern Uganda where the locals have all but abandoned faith due to their grim realities. There, they are assisted by a local girl Nabulungi, a role originated by Nikki M. James. Together, the three unlikely companions attempt to bring faith to the village while also dealing with a violent warlord, apathy and female genital mutilation.
The show is full of delightfully vulgar humor, some suitably surreal dream sequences and catchy tunes that helped the show’s original cast recording climb all the way to No. 3 at the Billboard 200 in 2011, only surpassed years later by the iconic Broadway sensation “Hamilton.” The show also garnered nine Tony Awards, including a win for Nikki M. James’ performance as Nabulungi.
Undoubtedly the synergy between “The Book of Mormon’s” original cast and the theatrical skills of its creators played a vital role in the show’s success. “The Book of Mormon’s” Josh Gad pairs his robust singing voice with endearing charm, Nikki M. James portrays Nabulungi with sincerity and Rannell’s Elder Price is supercilious but earnest in his belief at the same time.
But almost 10 years after the show first debuted on Broadway, what has become of “The Book of Mormon’s” original cast? What of its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone? What are these creative and talented people doing now?
What is Josh Gad Doing Now?
“The Book of Mormon’s” Josh Gad enjoyed minor success as a television actor prior to taking on the role of Elder Cunningham. After the show, Josh Gad landed a voice-acting role in the hit animated film series “Ice Age.” He branched also scored roles in film, starting with the lead role in “She Wants Me,” an independent film. In more mainstream movies, Gad appeared in “The Internship” in 2013 as portrayed Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the biographical film “Jobs” in the same year.
But his second most iconic role is as the voice of Olaf, the singing snowman from Disney’s blockbuster animated film “Frozen.” He would go on to provide the voice of Olaf in numerous animated spin-offs, including the film’s sequel in 2019.
Gad also branched out into more serious roles. He starred in the drama film “Marshall” alongside the late Chadwick Boseman. In 2017, he appeared in the ensemble mystery film adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express,” starring with Hollywood powerhouses, such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench and rising star Daisy Ridley.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh Gad started a YouTube series entitled Reunited Apart. The web series reunites the cast of iconic films for charity. Episodes include cast reunions of the “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future.” The episode reuniting the cast of “The Lord of the Rings” has over 5.7 million views, with the proceeds going to No Kid Hungry, a charity dedicated to feeding children in the United States.
Aside from his online work, “The Book of Mormon’s” Josh Gad has also been slated to appear in a sequel to “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”
What is Nikki M. James Doing Now?
Prior to joining the original cast of “The Book of Mormon,” Tisch-trained actress and singer Nikki M. James already had a distinguished Broadway career. After debuting in the 2001 production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” James starred as Dorothy Gale in the 2006 production of “The Wiz” and even performed the female leads in both “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cleopatra” in 2008.
After playing Nabulungi in “The Book of Mormon’s” original cast, Nikki M. James landed the role of the tragic Eponine Thenardier in the 2014 Broadway revival of “Les Miserables.” She also appeared in more Shakespearean performances, landing the lead role of Viola in a 2016 Shakespeare in the Park production of “Twelfth Night” and Portia in a 2017 production of “Julius Caesar.” She would later reprise the role of Viola in the 2018 run of “Twelfth Night.”
Aside from her continued success in theater, Nikki M. James has made numerous cameos on successful television shows. She appeared as guest character Monica Timmons in the tense drama “The Good Wife.” In 2016, she appeared for 12 episodes in political satire and sci-fi comedy show “BrainDead” alongside Mary-Elizabeth Winstead.
Recently, Nikki M. James’ performance in “Caesar and Cleopatra” was recently made available on streaming services. James portrays the last pharaoh of Egypt opposite Christopher Plummer’s Julius Caesar. On November 2020, James also collaborated with several musicians to release an album titled “Love & Southern D!scomfort,” which features songs from the musical of the same name. James is featured in the album with songs on its extended play.
What is Andrew Rannells Doing Now?
Before joining “The Book of Mormon’s” original cast as Elder Price, Andrew Rannells did a lot of voice over work for animated series and dubbing for anime. He provided the voice of Archie Andrews in the 1999 animated series “Archie’s Weird Mysteries” and voiced multiple characters on “Pokemon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters” for years. He would go on to provide anime voice-over work until 2006.
On the theater stage, Rannells was cast as Link Larkin in “Hairspray” in 2002. He enjoyed greater success when he went on the United States tour of the “Jersey Boys” as a replacement for Bob Gaudio in 2007. In 2010, Rannells originated the role of Michelangelo Jackson in the musical comedy version of “Lysistrata,” titled “Give It Up!”
After his stint as Elder Price, Rannells got further roles on Broadway productions such as being the replacement for the lead role of Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” For five weeks, Rannells also took over the role of Mad King George from Jonathan Groff in “Hamilton.” In 2018, during the 50th anniversary revival of “The Boys in the Band,” Rannells played the role of Larry. He later reprised the role in the 2020 film production of the play. The film was released on September 2020 on Netflix.
Outside of Broadway, Rannells has appeared in multiple television series, including the leading role in the 2019 dark comedy “Black Monday.” The series is set to release second season also featuring Rannells.
What are the Creators Doing Now?
Before conceptualizing the musical “The Book of Mormon,” show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were already enjoying success as the minds behind “South Park.” The animated film series has become a massive franchise with games and even a movie. Following the success of “The Book of Mormon,” Parker and Stone combined the profits from “South Park” and the hit musical to launch their own production studio.
Important Studios opened for business in 2013, with an estimated value of $300 million. The studio has been speculated to be working on a live-action production of “The Book of Mormon” although no new updates are available.
“The Book of Mormon’s” original cast was undoubtedly instrumental in the show’s success, both artistically and financially. The careers of its creators and talented cast are still going strong even after almost a decade. Here’s hoping that these creative minds and talented people will continue to share their artistry for years to come.