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‘The Book of Mormon’ coming to Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK — “The Book of Mormon” has 7:30 p.m. performances on Oct. 8-12, with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Oct. 12-13, at Penn State University’s Eisenhower Auditorium.

Still playing to sell-out crowds on Broadway, the nine-time Tony Award winner brings its unique musical comedy to Penn State with an almost religious fervor.

The national tour features some of the original Broadway cast when “The Book of Mormon” was named as “Best Musical.”

The misadventures of Elders Price and Cunningham, assigned to use “The Book of Mormon” to convert the heathen in Uganda, has been tickling funny bones for years.

Sometimes described as a coming-of-age tale of two likable Mormon missionaries hoping to spread the word close to home, the Elders are called instead to serve in the darkest reaches of Africa.

Somewhat surprisingly, the creators of “The Book of Mormon” are best known as being the brains behind the long-running cartoon series “South Park” and the musical “Avenue Q.”

Both on Broadway since 2011, and now with its national tours, “The Book of Mormon” has generated lots of attention, not as merely a send-up of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, but also as an irreverent and profane lampoon of today’s religion and culture.

Despite an overriding emphasis on the comical implications of the Elders’ efforts, the script has the villagers concerned with pressing issues of AIDS, famine, female genital mutilation, and the warlords’ oppression.

Musically, “The Book of Mormon” struck it rich as the original Broadway cast recording became the highest-ranking cast album in over four decades, and also won a Grammy Award for “Best Musical Theater Album.” The tune “Hello” continues to be the show’s most recognizable song.

With many religious themes, notably those of faith and doubt, “The Book of Mormon” satirizes organized religion, although portraying most Mormons as well-meaning and optimistic, if a little naive and unworldly.

As Penn State University’s primary venue, the Eisenhower Auditorium for the Performing Arts seats nearly 2,500 theatergoers.

Although 2019-20 schedules find several tours set to make stops at local and area theaters — often for only one performance — national tours, especially those that are Actors Equity affiliated, are generally required to “sit down” at a theatre venue for a minimum of seven performances.

So “The Book of Mormon” will be looking for lots of “converts,” or at least rabid fans of award-winning musical comedies, to fill the massive auditorium during its stay on the Penn State campus.

For more information, call 1-814-863-0255.

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