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Living the dream
Brandon native touring with Broadway show, ‘The Book of Mormon’
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

May 10. 2013 9:41AM
Cody Strand gets paid to master video games.

And on occasion, he plays one of the lead roles in “The Book of Mormon,” one of biggest shows now on indefinite tour throughout the United States and Canada.

“Going from college to this massive production that’s selling out everywhere and making a million dollars a week, I could just pinch myself,” says the 23-year-old. “I’ve never been involved with something like before.”

But Strand is living the dream he’s envisioned since he landed his first acting gig as a fifth grader in Brandon Valley High’s production of “The Sound of Music.”

That’s when the acting bug bit him – and bit him hard, he says. After graduating from the University of South Dakota, where Strand was one of eight national finalists for an American College Theatre Festival scholarship, he packed up his belongings and headed to the Big Apple at the end of July last year. Not long after, Strand said his agent set him up to audition for ‘The Book of Mormon’s’ tour cast. Strand said he had a number of callbacks before they assigned him the standby role of the Elder Arnold Cunningham, one of the show’s leading roles.

“It happened really fast,” says the 2008 Brandon Valley alumnus from a hotel room in Toronto, Canada, last week. “Suddenly I was in New York, settled and had to find somebody to fill the apartment.”

Since joining the cast at the end of November last year, Strand has taken the stage for eight shows. The show’s on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto through June 9.

“It’s an absolute dream come true,” says the son of Pastor Kirk and Jennifer Strand of Brandon. “It’s just the most amazing thing every time I go on, whether it be a month or two break, my heart doesn’t stop pounding until a half hour after the show.”

In his first week with the tour, Strand took the stage with two-time Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel.

“It was the scariest moment of my life,” he said. “My adrenaline was so high that all I remember is walking out on the stage and then taking my bow.”

Kevin Brick, who directed Strand in local productions through middle and high school, said he’s always believed Strand would achieve his goal.

“I knew he’d reach it, but I didn’t know he’d do it this fast,” Brick said. “Cody has incredible talent, and if anybody was going to make it, Cody would. … (He’s) perfectly suited for this, and he’s always had a wonderful understanding of where his niche is.”

While Strand has caught the attention of Broadway directors and producers, he’s also turning a few heads out in the public.

“It depends on how long we’ve been in a city,” he says, “I can be at a coffeehouse and people (who saw him in the show) will be looking at me funny. But it doesn’t happen as often to me as it does the leads.”

Brick says it’s only a matter of time before Strand is a more familiar face in the national theatre industry.

“It’s just tremendous, marvelous that he’s able to do what he wants to for the rest of his life,” Brick said. “And that’s just spectacular.”

Strand’s parents were scheduled to see the show at the Boston Opera House on the day of the recent bombings there. Strand was scheduled to go on that day, but the devastating event during the Boston Marathon cancelled the show. Strand, however, took the stage the following day with his folks in the audience.
The tour’s come within driving distance of Brandon, playing in both Des Moines, Iowa, and Minneapolis, Minn. Strand took the stage for one performance in Minneapolis, where several familiar faces were in the audience including his sister, TJ Polzin and the Rohlf family.

“It was bizarre how many people I knew,” he said.

Brick coins the show as “big time.”

“Wherever they go, they sell out – these are not one-night stands,” he said.

And for Strand, it’s exactly the life he’s been dreaming about since a fifth grader playing one of the Von Tropp kids in “The Sound of Music.”

“Every time I have talk about what I do, it’s so hard to explain,” he said. “But it’s everything I could ask for and more.”

Pastor Kirk and Jennifer Strand traveled to Boston to see their son, Cody, take the stage as the Elder Arnold Cunningham in "The Book of Mormon" at the Boston Opera House last month. Strand has been touring with the show since early December. His contract runs through mid-July, and Strand says he hopes to stay on with the tour. Submitted photo

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