BWW Reviews: URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL is a Privilege to See

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BWW Reviews: URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL is a Privilege to See

Two of my very favorite things are satire and black comedy. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL has been a favorite of mine since the show took home Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical back in 2002. It is a rarity in today's musical theatre - a truly original musical which is not based on existing source material. The show got its start in 1995 when Greg Kotis (book and lyrics) was a struggling student on a budget traveling in Europe and encountered pay-per-use toilets. It was then that the musical's central idea hit him: a future where toilets were controlled by a corporation with no concern for the poor. According to Kotis, the show 'was created in a spirit of defiance against what's typically offered up as stage worthy in America today.'

In the years since it opened, drought and water shortages have made the concept even more topical than it was when it opened. In addition to the core topic of social irresponsibility, URINETOWN satirizes the legal system, capitalism, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and municipal politics. URINETOWN also parodies theatrical conventions and the very form of musical theatre itself and is deliciously self aware. If you are a fan of musical theatre, you will notice sly hat tips to such shows as LES MISERABLES, CHICAGO, THE THREEPENNY OPERA and THE CRADLE WILL ROCK to mention just a few. And on top of all that, it is absolutely hilarious.

The City Theatre's current production is a sharp and snappy version of this material. Director Marco Bazan has done a great job of making the show work in the small space of The City Theatre. Musical Director Cathie Sheridan has done an excellent job of adapting the very challenging score to the 4 man combo and has delivered some truly marvelous vocals. Choreographer Andy Berkovsky has also done a commendable job with choreography that provides many tributes to the musical theatre that has gone before.

The cast is tight and strong throughout, but there are some truly standout performances. Daniel Monplaisir (Bobby Strong), Kirk Kelso (Caldwell Cladwell), Gil Austin (Officer Lockstock), Vanessa Marie (Little Sally) and Jeff Phillips (Officer Barrel) are all excellent but the real knockouts of the cast are Cathie Sheridan as Penny Pennywise and Evelyn Lalonde as Hope Cladwell. Sheridan knocks her songs out of the park and commands your attention as the operator of the public utility. You can't help but focus on her no matter what else may be happening on stage. Evelyn Lalonde is utterly charming as the ingénue who believes that you should listen to your heart. She also possesses a singing voice that is a beautiful as she is.

Kudos also go to The Urinetown Band which consists of Clifford Bond, Mikey Waters, Chris La Cava and John Cecil for making the score sound as terrific with a combo as it does with a full orchestra.

My only real negative here has to do with with the lighting which proved to be problematic the night I saw the show. Issues of flashing and strobing left some cast members performing in dark spots and at times upstaged the performers. I hope this can be fixed as it distracts from the excellent work that is being done on stage.

URINETOWN has the tag-line 'it's a privilege to pee'; but as far as this production is concerned, it's a privilege to see! Put URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL on your calendar, because you will be hard pressed to find another evening at the theater that is as much fun as this one.

URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL: Music by Mark Hollman, Book by Greg Kotis, Lyrics by Mark Hollman & Greg Kotis.

Running time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.

URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL, produced by The City Theatre Company, plays The City Theatre (3823 Airport Blvd. Suite D, 78722 ) now thru September 7. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday at 5:30 pm. General Seating $25. Two for $40. Center Reserved $30 and $35. Students $15. Seniors $18. Thursday all seats $15. Reservations 512-524-2870 or info@citytheatreaustin.org

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Frank Benge A Kansas native, Frank Benge has been involved in the Austin area theatre scene as a Director, Designer, Writer and Performer for the past 20 years. He holds a double BA in Theatre and English from Washburn University.


 
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