THE LEADING MEN: Jared Gertner Says "Hello" to London in Book of Mormon

By Jared Eberlein
16 Mar 2013

Gertner on the U.S. national tour of Book of Mormon.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Would you say the creative team has treated the West End production like a brand new show?
JG: Yes, but they've done that with each of the productions. I've opened three of the four companies now and they've been completely hands on and present for all of them. A lot of times with big hit shows, they'll sort of farm it out to associates to put the show up, and then maybe you'll see the director or you'll see the writer toward the end. But Matt, Trey & Bobby [Lopez] have been present and such a part of each production. They genuinely care about the quality of the work and I really respect that about them.

With their involvement, were there any changes made in anticipation of a different audience sensibility across the pond?
JG: There were a number of things that Gavin and I would hypothesize about while we were on the tour, once we knew we were coming to London — things that wouldn't be understood or translate. But Matt, Trey and Bobby have just decided to give it a go and do the show exactly as it was written and see how it plays. As it turns out, we didn't have to change anything; everything is being understood just beautifully.

You bring an unapologetic, unabashed joy to Cunningham that I've not necessarily seen in any other actor's take on the role and it's brilliant. Is that mostly you coming through?
JG: I think it's me to a degree. I think I have a lot of joy in my life and I'm a really happy guy. But Trey Parker in rehearsal said something about [Cunningham] being a "happy puppy," and I thought, "That's the perfect way into him." All Cunningham wants is a best friend, and he starts the show by being given the only thing he's ever wanted in his life, so why wouldn't he be unabashedly joyful?

In each new incarnation has the cast been encouraged to find their own way in to their respective roles?
JG: I think that's the smartest thing our creative team has done. In each company they've formed so far they've been really smart about hiring funny, unique, weird people and just seeing what they come up with. No one has ever been asked to imitate anyone who's done the part before. No one has ever been asked to stick with a bit or a take that someone else has done. Everyone's encouraged to find their own way in and I think that's what makes each company really special. When we were doing the national tour — the first company after Broadway — it was its own thing. It paid homage to what the Broadway cast had done, but it had its own vibe and everyone had their own take on the material. It's a gift that with a lot of big shows you don't get. There's no "now you cross left, now you lift your arm, now you breathe —" and I love that about our creative team.

Have your own discoveries of Elder Cunningham come in big "Aha!" moments, or has it been a gradual two-year process?
JG: It's really been a gradual process that then had a sharp turn when I got to start working with Gavin Creel. Up until then, I had been doing someone else's show — my own take, but someone else's framework. With Gavin, we started from scratch and created it together. And what I've found through Cunningham's relationship with Price has been remarkable — his journey, his need and how he ends up filling that need himself and becoming his own man.