Eds Note: I do actually get out of my kitchen sometimes and I really did see this show. I am NOT making this up.
By Bill Coady
Let’s just cut to the chase on this one. If you haven’t gone yet, just go. Trust me. It’s great, just go. So, what is this? You don’t trust me, you want an actual review before you plunk down your hard earned money? OK, I see how things are around here. OK, here is your review.
Urinetown is a musical about a place which is not a place. This will only make sense if you actually go see the show, so you better go do that. The play is set in some future time in some city where a severe drought has made water rationing a necessity. The mechanism for that rationing is a company, the Urine Good Company, who now controls all the public facilities in the city, not to mention the police force and the legislature. UGC, as it is called, uses its monopoly not only to gain economic wealth, but political control as well. Most of the action in the play takes place on the poorer side of town where monoply meets poverty.
Challenging the powers that be is one Bobby Strong, who after seeing his father arrested for, well, relieving himself outside of the established channels, begins an uprising to break the power of the UGC. Well, that is the serious framework of the play anyway.
Wrapped around this serious premise is a play that is laugh out loud funny, at times emotionally touching and one that wraps up with a bit of a surprise message that even Dr. Rent will like. It is a fully engaging roller coaster ride that truly delivers. Just go get your tickets now. OK, you want more?
The ensemble cast that has been put together for this show from both UWMC and the community is really fantastic. There are lots of people involved and just tons of talent on stage. One of the fun things about Urinetown, the Musical, is that it satirizes all kinds of musical theater conventions, and the cast pulls this off brilliantly. There are quite a few different styles of songs and dances as part of this layer of satire and the cast hits each style with aplomb, they are all great. But even out of this wonderful ensemble there were a number of stand out performances.
Greg Lamansky turns in a dynamite performance as Caldwell B. Cladwell. Looking the part perfectly, Lamansky brings to life the scheming, grasping, Mr. Burns-like, Cladwell while belting out his numbers like a Broadway pro. You almost don’t know whether to love him or hate him, which is the mark of a great performance.
Playing the hero of the piece, Justin Evans gets to show a wonderful range of character acting. Not only is his character, Bobby Strong, the leader of the “Pee Revolution” but he also gets to play the romantic lead role. The play gives Justin a chance to sometimes play both parts seriously and sometimes with a winking nod as he satirizes Broadway conventions. Justin is up to both aspects of the performance and delivers quite a few belly laughs with just a little twist in his gestures or tone of voice. Bobby Strong is a wonderful character, and Justin completely nails the part.
A big part of what makes Urinetown work is two characters that are both in the play and also exist outside the play as narrators of sort. One of those characters is Little Sally, played by Laura Curran. Little Sally is dressed a bit like Little Orphan Annie and Laura provides a wonderful “Edith Ann” type of voice to establish the “little” part of Sally, but then adds on the mannerisms of womanly ingenue which creates a delicious tension everytime she is on stage. It is a wonderful seat squriming performance. And when Laura finally gets a chance at a solo song, her voice is a revelation. She probably has the best voice in the cast and it is well worth waiting to hear. I hope that next time she will get a lead singing role, she is more than up to that.
The other narrator is Officer Lockstock, played by Joe Feltz. His performance is a tour de force, truly. Seriously funny, Joe completely steals the show, and that is saying a lot, considering how well balanced the cast and play really are. Joe’s hip-hop dance in the first act just had everyone rolling in the aisles, and his Leslie Nielson-like deadpan delivery of some of the funniest lines in the play just killed. Pretty much a perfect performance.
And I would be completely remiss if I did not mention the small musical combo that provides the backdrop for all of this. Ann Applegate leads some of the best musical talent in town through a wide range of musical styles that really is completely intregrated with the actors. John Griener is in the combo and delivers a number of wonderful solos, including a wonderful moment during a clarinet solo, guarunteed for a laugh.
So, now have I convinced you? You really should go see it and you have three more chances this week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, all at 7:30 pm. Tickets for adults are $12 and for students and seniors, $10. Also to make things a bit more enticing, there is a post performance discussion session as part of the Affluenza series after the Thursday night performance. And speaking of students, even with the title this really is a show that all ages can enjoy. As a movie Urinetown would barely rate a “PG” rating, most sitcoms now have more bathroom humor than this show. Urinetown is much, much better than any sitcom and well worth your time this week.