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'Book of Mormon' returns to Pittsburgh with high-energy music and dance

Cast of 'Book of Mormon'
Cast of 'Book of Mormon'Joan Marcus

The multiple award-winning and record-breaking musical, Book of Mormon (BOM), will return to Pittsburgh this month for a limited run. The satirical show is based on two Mormon missionaries who travel to Uganda where they offer their religious text as an inspirational way to deal with violence threatening their village.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the irreverent and adult television cartoon, South Park, wrote the musical, along with Tony Award-winner, Robert Lopez. Like the cartoon, the musical is known for its profane, mocking humor, controversial but hilarious.

Casey Nicholaw choreographed and co-directed the show, and also has his fair share of awards. He is no stranger to comedy, having worked on Spamalot and The Drowsy Chaperone, both highly acclaimed parodies.

Ensemble member, Corey Hummerston, says he feels very fortunate to work with the directors and that Nicholaw did not want Book of Mormon to be a “cookie cutter show.”

“We have a very young cast, with a different energy than those who have been in the business longer. Casey tailored the show to our natural energy,” Hummerston says.

Hummerston grew up in Lancaster and studied theater from a young age. His first show with the BOM cast was in December 2012, and he has been performing it ever since. He compares the physicality of the show to Hairspray. The two shows share an upbeat, fast-paced tempo, with movement that isn’t the most technically driven, but requires a lot of stamina.

He says, “Every number is either danced or musicalized in some way. You’re not going to see a ton of pirouettes or leaps, but if you like dance, that is a huge component to the show.”

The show begins with what Hummerston describes as a peppy feel to the movement, matching the sense of pride and eagerness from the Mormon characters. Then, as the setting shifts to Africa, the movement takes on a tribal energy that is more grounded and percussive. Hummerston also says, “African dance is very connected emotionally to what is going on in the body.”

As a performer, the energy level required of Hummerston has been a good challenge. “It is like shooting yourself out of a cannon. You don’t land until the curtain comes down.”

Hummerston insists that the show doesn’t solely rely on shock value. He says the writing smartly pokes fun at Mormons, but also many other aspects of American life. Beyond the humor, Hummerston says, “I think there is a huge over-arcing message, but people find whatever they want within the story.” And in his experience, many people believe the show captures Mormonism accurately.

The show will run from September 23rd through October 5th at Heinz Hall. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $45-$150, and are available for purchase by calling 412-315-3155, visiting the Heinz Hall Box Office (600 Penn Avenue), or online at www.TrustArts.org and www.CulturalDistrict.org. Group sales are available. Click HERE for more information about The Book of Mormon.