No Offence Meant
Words by: Wendy Kay
First of all, let’s get that damn elephant out of the room.
Yep, The Book Of Mormon is politically incorrect. Shockingly so.
Offence is up for grabs. In fact, there’s something for everyone to get their knickers in a knot over. Savage pokes at African naiveté, brutal jabs at God and bold blasts at sexual depravity, it’s all so wrong in 2018. Laugh if you dare. And laugh Sydney did.
Maybe it was the unusual strategy of offering free alcohol to first nighters before the show opened at Sydney’s Lyric last week which helped lubricate the funny bones. Or maybe Sydney has been suppressed too long and was simply gagging for a giggle. Yes, even at the expense of others.
Putting over-sensitive souls aside, (they really shouldn’t see The Book of Mormon for its appallingly crass language alone), and judging by the 30 plus gongs, including nine Tony Awards, this fabulous production has earned since opening on Broadway in 2011, it’s safe to assume the majority has taken the musical in the spirit it was meant, an uplifting tale about enlightenment.
Conceived by South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Oscar-winning songwriter Roger Lopez (Avenue Q, Let It Go) the production gushes catchy Broadway tunes and masterful choreography in between seamless story telling.
There is nothing godly about the sexual wickedness, disease and violence ruling simple-living Africans in a small Ugandan village, thus the need for a pair of uptight, intrusive religious zealots brandishing their Book of Mormon and promising the answer in prayer.
Ultimately, it’s the absurdity of these whites in their crisp, starched shirts and perfectly-parted hair, which grants us permission to also laugh at the outrageous ditties exposing oversized black genitalia, ‘yellow’ Chinese, a sexy ‘hot shade of black’, and yes, a maggot infested scrotum (seriously, you had to be there).
Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) a confident sparkling achiever and Elder Cunningham (A.J Holmes), a goofy, insecure failure in life, realise quickly their little book of God may not be the divine solution to saving African souls when treated to the Ugandans own quick fix, a chant of Hasa Diga Eebowai, translated as f*** you God.
As Elders fail to convert, and resolve and relationships crumble, Elder Cunningham contributes his own spin on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and genuinely starts to believe.
Imports, Bondy and Holmes, are welcome additions to the Australian cast, both offering tremendous vocals, with Holmes’ ultra-slick timing as the clumsy, kooky character consistently hilarious.
The Aussies are just as outstanding. Rowan Witt as Elder McKinley, the closet gay trying to ‘turn it off like a light switch’, is outstanding, while Zahra Newman’s portrayal as Nabulingi is heart-wrenchingly pure. Meanwhile, the ensemble is absolutely joyous in its abundance of singing and choreography, as the huge foot-tapping extravaganzas line up one after another.
It’s enough, really, to restore your faith, maybe not in God, but certainly in a good laugh.
The Book of Mormon is playing at the Sydney Lyric until September 2018.
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