DON'T LET THE TITLE STOP YOU FROM TRAVELING TO URINETOWN
Move over Wicked, there is a new smash hit show in town and it is absolutely brilliant. Urinetown the Musical is up and running at the Mercury Theatre and audiences are lining up to get in. Created by Chicago's very own Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, the show was honored in 2002 with three Tony Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical. The authors themselves jokingly concede that the musical features perhaps the worst-title-ever for a commercial theatre venue. However, it's no joke that this show has incredible wit and a sustained ability to make the audience laugh.
Urinetown is one of the funniest laugh out loud musicals in recent years. It is a tale of greed, corruption, love, and revolution in a time when water is worth its weight in gold. Set in a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by Urine Good Company, which profits by charging admission for one of humanity's most basic needs.
The hero named Bobby Strong, played by Michael Buchanan, decides he's had enough, and plans a revolution to lead all the people to freedom. Matters quickly become complicated, because Bobby's love interest, Hope Cladwell, happens to be the daughter of Caldwell B. Cladwell, who owns Urine Good Company. Buchanan is born to play the role of Bobby. His acting is unblemished and vocals are magnificent. His homage to Wicked during "Look at the Sky" has the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter. Tamara Spiewak and Michael Accardo give solid performances as Hope and Caldwell, but are both a little hard to hear during some of their songs.
Officer Lockstock, played hilariously by Jon Frazier, is the narrator of the show. He tells the audience what Urinetown truly is, when they can take intermission, and how he keeps peace in the town. He tells street urchin Little Sally that "nothing can kill a show like too much exposition." Sally responds with what the entire audience is probably thinking, "How about bad subject matter or a bad title?" Roni Geva's portrayal of Little Sally steals the show. Her child-like mannerisms are dead-on and her comedic timing is flawless. Adding to an already all-star cast is an ensemble that simply impresses. Each and every one of them sound and look terrific.
Director Tom Mullen does a great job of utilizing the intimate 300 seat theatre's space to perfection. The two level set, designed by John Rotunda, provides great flow (no pun intended) for the actors' movement. Even the lighting design plays an effective part in setting the mood for a fun filled evening.
Before you spend more of your time trying to secure tickets to Wicked, put the phone down, save some money, and rush over to the Mercury Theatre. Urinetown is a fantastic evening of musical theatre at its best. "Urine" for a magnificent treat!
Urinetown the Musical
When: Wed. and Thurs. at 7:30 p.m., Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 5 & 8:30 p.m. and Sun. at 5pm
Where: Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL