Sam Nackman, right, as Elder Cunningham, speaks to Ugandan villagers in the touring production of The Book of Mormon.
Queer actor finds his dreams in ‘The Book of Mormon’
RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer
Sam Nackman recently began his first national tour as one of the leads in The Book of Mormon, which runs Friday through Sunday, July 28-30, at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. The queer actor plays Elder Cunningham. It is a role that’s been on his radar for some time. Now, he’s bringing the character to life across the entire country.
“It’s been such a whirlwind, but dreams do come true,” Nackman said. “I’ve dreamt of doing this role since I knew I wanted to pursue acting.”
As Elder Cunningham, Nackman plays half of a pair of Mormon missionaries sent to a Ugandan village to spread the word of faith to a community dealing with bigger issues and problems. Written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show is an irreverent and funny approach to religion — among other major topics.
The subject matter, as one might expect, elicits a variety of reactions in audiences, and Nackman has gotten to experience a variety of those reactions with each of the show’s stops. He expects that to continue with upcoming performances, as well.
“It’s very interesting. Some people know that the show is funny and satirical. Some come into it blind.
That all causes a lot of different directions,” he said. “Some people are shocked because the show gets wild and crazy at some points. It’s just so funny from the stage though to hear these different reactions.”
For fans of the original Book of Mormon that premiered more than a decade ago on Broadway, Nackman notes that the show has been updated. In a relatively short time, the world has changed — and so has the show.
“We are in a different world now, so yes, a couple of things have been updated. Some jokes have been tweaked to be more relevant, but I think the updates only improve the show,” he said. “Some jokes give the characters more agency, but the songs have really remained the same. I think it all works great for the show.”
Elder Cunningham wasn’t just a dream role for the actor; Nackman said he and the elder are almost cut from the very same cloth and that he relates to his character almost a little too precisely — which isn’t a bad thing.
“Well, I do think I am very like him and to a fault. He’s just this loveable goofball. Biggest heart you’ve ever seen,” Nackman said. “He loves everyone around him. I think I am similar in that way. I think everyone’s great, and I look for the best in people. But sometimes that can lead to him — and me — getting carried away in things we say and do.”
Nackman’s notable differences are charming.
“I’m not that silly all the time, and I like to think I have more self control than [Elder Cunningham] does. He’s a bit of an impulsive person,” the actor said.
As a bi/pan identifying person, Nackman is aware of that intersection of queerness and religion in the show. But still, he said, he finds the show’s message certainly to be uplifting.
“It’s very much encapsulated in one line: ‘Who cares what happens when we’re dead.’ And that was such a beautiful sentiment that it brings me to tears hearing that,” Nackman said. “As long as you can make this life the best it can be, that’s what is important — especially for this world we currently live in.”
Visit BassHall.com for tickets.
New chapters was first posted on July 28, 2023 at 7:30 am.
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