There is a real problem writing a review of the hilarious “Urinetown,” the musical with the unlikely title, currently entertaining audiences at UCD’s main theatre, through June 3.
The problem is that it contains so many funny things on so many levels that I’m reluctant to give anything away—part of the fun is in the discovery.
“Urinetown,” with music and lyrics by Mark Hollman, and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, began life as a production for New York’s International Fringe Festival, where it was so successful that it moved first to an off-Broadway theater, and in September 2001 (not exactly a great time for theater – in fact, the opening was postponed following 9/11), it opened on Broadway, where it ran through January of 2004, for a healthy 925 performances.
This timely piece, which explores a world where water is in short supply and the ability to relieve oneself becomes a social / political firestorm.
Travis Dukelow acts as the quasi narrator, Officer Lockstock (whose partner (Yahya Rouhani) is Officer Barrell), who opens the show in conversation with “Little Sally” (Allison Minick). Dukelow is perfect for this role. He has a deep voice that exudes confidence, and the sardonic delivery that lets the audience know that the whole show is really a big joke.
Minick is cute as a button as Little Sally, as she goads Lockstock into telling the story.
“Say, Officer Lockstock, is this where you tell the audience about the water shortage?... The hard times. The drought. A shortage so awful that private toilets eventually become unthinkable.”
Lockstock sets the stage with the explanation “suffice it to say that in Urinetown (the musical) everyone has to use public bathrooms in order to take care of their private business. That's the central conceit of the show!
Better hope your pennies
Add up to the fee -
We can't have you peeing
If you do, we'll catch you
We, we never fail!
And we never bother with jail
All the public restrooms are owned by one company, run by Caldwell B. Cladwell (Jesse Merz), who believe he is above reproach, that he can do whatever he wants, that he can reward his cronies and the hell with the rest of the people (any resemblance between Cladwell and any current politicians is purely coincidental).
Cladwell’s daughter, appropriately named “Hope” (Emma Goldin) is returning home after graduation from college. Daddy expects her to take over the running of his company, but the idealistic Hope isn’t exactly ready to follow in Daddy’s footsteps.
Goldin is absolutely great. Her costume helps to make her the center of attention (kudos to costume designer Maggie Morgan) and throughout the show, she exudes wholesomeness and goodness. She is at her absolute best in act 2, after her abduction. She’s a walking cliché and pulls it off flawlessly.
Bobby Strong (R. Andrew Hess) works for the worst public toilet in town, under the leadership of Penelope Pennywise (Ara Glenn-Johanson). Hess is delightfully idealistic, a young firebrand who is determined to win back the right to “pee for free” for all the people. He imbues Strong with the same impish likeability that he gave to Sancho Panza in the recent “Man of La Mancha.” His “Run, Freedom, Run” is the high point of the show.
Glenn-Johnson would make a great Evita. Her spirited Penelope is great fun and she does a wonderful job with “It’s a Privilege to Pee.”
This whole show is an homage to classic musicals, with the musical arrangements as much fun as the songs themselves. How many classic musicals can you spot?
The appeal of this particular production, in addition to a stellar cast, is director Mindy Cooper’s crisp direction and choreography. Dancers dance with Rockette-like precision and she creates wonderful groupings and angular freezes that are simply delicious.
Robert Broadfoot has designed a set which nicely represents some futuristic time, without being so over the top that it is unbelievable.
The entire evening is great fun and there are parts which are so funny they will …. well … have you wondering if you can “hold it” until you can get to the public facilities!