Star of the Week: Jon Bass is a class act as Elder Cunningham in ‘The Book of Mormon’

Jon Bass

Jon Bass

Arnold Cunningham is a guy who is often misunderstood, not only by his fellow Mormons but by the actors who portray him.

While the character toes the line between well-intentioned ineptness and lends farcical commentary on the teachings of the Mormon faith, all too often Arnold’s clumsiness is translated into stupidity.

Currently The Book of Mormon is playing in four cities – New York, London, Chicago and St. Louis which means there are four principle actors, and their standbys, currently portraying the geeky Mormon who infuses his faith with references to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

But for anyone who wants a true Book of Mormon experience, there is only one place to go: the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City.

Jon Bass was not the first actor I saw in the role of Elder Cunningham and he probably won’t be the last. But there has not been a better Arnold Cunningham since Josh Gad.

I had the luck of telling Jon twice to his face that he is the best Elder Cunningham since Josh Gad. And while a security guard joked that what I said was an insult because I ranked Bass as second, when you consider the long history of The Book of Mormon and the number of actors who have played the role, it’s actually the opposite.

Jon doesn’t cheapen his portrayal by seeking the easy laughs and he respects Arnold’s character enough to remind the audience that this character isn’t the village idiot. In all of his geeky glory, Jon also has a strong set of vocals which complements nicely with Tony winning actress Nikki M. James.

Surprisingly, Book of Mormon is Jon’s Broadway debut.

Jon is a graduate of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a renowned improvisational theatre, and Boston University. He was previously involved with the Book of Mormon national tour in California.

Jon is a refreshing talent on the Broadway stage. Funny, youthful and energetic, he’s not only a delight to watch on stage but he is always friendly and good-natured at the stage door and in interviews. And although he has little on his resume, I have no doubt that he will follow in his Mormon brothers footsteps and achieve great things.

However, until the unfortunate day comes that Book of Mormon loses him to another project, I am incredibly thankful for Jon’s honest and engaging performance as my favorite Mormon.

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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