URINETOWN, The Musical – Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman; Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis; Directed by Robert Michael Sanders; Musical Direction by Dan Graeber; Choreographed by Ronni Stark. Produced by the Town Hall Arts Center (2450 Main Street, Littleton) through February 25th. Tickets available at 303-794-2787 x5 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Hollman and Mr. Kotis, the creators of this funny script, have three (or more) things working for them. (1) An interesting premise that provides an easy conflict (those that have access to water and those that don’t) with ample opportunity for sight gags and verbal innuendos. (2) The device of a narrator who “explains” it all for the audience while chatting with his sidekick. He makes sure that everyone knows they are IN a musical world which has certain traditions to follow and formulas to be honored. (3) The ability to drop other musical memories into the middle of the action for the fun of audience recognition.
Mr. Sanders, Mr. Graeber and Ms. Stark have all these ingredients plus a talented cast of singers and dancers to bring the show to life; an experienced set of designers and crew members to make everything look and sound right; and an on-stage four-piece band to provide the back beat. It all adds up to a fun afternoon or evening at Town Hall.
While the last production reviewed featured people trying desperately to hang on to their dignity, the denizens of Urinetown (the Musical) have no shame in revealing their need to use the bathroom. Straight up, we are invited to watch a line of men and women lined up in front of a UGC (Urine Good Company) public urinal struggling to hold it together . . . and in. Under the guidance of Pennywise (Liz Brooks), the keeper of the keys to this latrine, the chorus of the Poor explain musically that it is a “Privilege to Pee.” A long-term drought has drained all the water sources; all that remains is under control of UGC owned by Caldwell B. Cladwell (Jim Hitzke). So, it costs to use a bathroom. One can only imagine what happens when you don’t have the money needed. There are several references to the “Stink Years” answering that question.
But how do you deal with this situation except with humor or rebellion. This script – in the accepted method as explained by Officer Lockstock (Damon Guerrasio) – encourages both. Pushed to the wall by Cladwell and his potty goons, the Poor finally stand up for their right to sit down. Depending on whether you are male or female.
This carefully constructed musical thought of everything. Even the names of the characters are puns. The two police officers are Lockstock and Barrel. The villain is the well-dressed (even in his bunny slippers) Mr. Clad-Well. The hard-hearted yet realistic manager of the latrine is Ms. Pennywise; the family that rebels against the UGC are the Strong’s, led by son Bobby (Jake Bell). Could you be more obvious?
While poking fun at the traditional musical – which this is not! – the show also pays musical and choreographic homage to the very tradition it mocks. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, WEST SIDE STORY, LES MIZ and many others are lovingly tossed into the mix. Traditions are honored – there is, of course, a love story and songs, a gospel rouser, a rebellious anthem, an “I Want (to pee)” song – and traditions are broken – unexpected people die (gruesome but funny scenes not unlike the throat cutting in SWEENEY TODD), happy endings are mocked, and no one repents. Even Cladwell is dragged off stage singing “I’m not sorry.” Which all adds to the fun.
I love this community of players that will happily take their place in the ensemble when that is offered, even though they have done leads in recent productions. It’s all about the show – not the ego. This strong ensemble which includes such local favorites as Carter Edward Smith, Corey Exline, Elliot Clough, Isabella Duran, Mark Shonsey, and Sam Barrosso mines the script for humor and finds it all. Each member contributes to the story enthusiastically and with skill. The dances are tight, the songs soar, and the jokes catch the audience off guard.
Kudo’s also to the on-stage band and the sound crew for providing the musical background without overwhelming the singers. It would have been so easy to do with their proximity to the performers and audience.
“A Splash Hit!!”
A WOW factor of 8.75!