BWW Review: URINETOWN-THE MUSICAL Holds Riveted Audiences to their Seats at Lyric Arts
At the intimate theater in downtown Anoka, Minnesota, Lyric Arts presents an absolutely "pee-popping" version of the 2001 Broadway hit Urinetown; The Musical. When the musical was first proposed, producers initially rejected the comic/tragic satire (A "sad" musical as the character Little Sally names the production), yet numerous Urinetown performances captured Drama Desk and Tony Awards through 2001 and 2002. The multi-layered musical featured at Lyric Arts presents an equally multi-talented cast who can act, dance and sing, triple threats in theater, with thrilling results. Director Matt McNabb amps up the productions to a hyper realistic state, perfect for todays political scenarios into an entertaining and enlightening theatrical evening.
For those unfamiliar with the story line of Urinetown, the award winning show describes any small town American experiencing a water shortage problem following a 20 year drought. All bathrooms have been transformed into a "price to pay" when using these necessary facilities, morning, noon or night: public bathrooms for private business. Hence, the facilities become corporately controlled, especially in the poor part of town by a private company named Urine Good Company, or UGC. The corporation manipulates the town under the direction of CEO Caldwell B. Caldwell (Peter Aitchison) and his optimistic, newly college graduate daughter Hope (Becca Hart).
Under the control of UGC, Senator Fipp (Wade Fields) has been bought, ready to escape to Rio with his money, to manipulate the political landscape, or the state congress, for additional rate hikes to use these necessary facilities. Intervening, an equally optimistic young man from the poor ranks in town Bobby Strong (Austin Stole), challenges UGC to free the people and offers hope from the public's private tyranny. In this timeless musical, Bobby Strong and Hope Caldwell illustrate two of the 100 greatest roles in musical theater history, and strong actors, Stole and Hart, imagine them on the Lyric Arts stage.
Add to this illustrious cast narrator Officer Lockstock (Beckman Davis) and a young girl in glasses, Little Sally (Kate Beahen), who both center the story with delightful comedic timing and perceptive comments. Davis and Beahen perform flawlessly with Little Sally's character providing an innocent charm and wisdom far beyond her years that permeates the performance. Her character, the winsome Beahen, posits solutions to the water shortage: hydraulics and/or irrigation systems while she believes kindness, love and working together might solve their problems instead of escalating the public restroom rebellion into violence. Lockstock plays the law and order heavy man doing the bidding of Caldwell while dosing the musical with a humorous outside viewpoint. Do these situations sound eerily familiar to contemporary headlines?
The play appears more contemporary than ever if the audience replaces the 10 essential health care needs or internet privacy in the place of Urinetown's public toilets. Or interjects carbon dioxide emissions in the air and pollution wherever people live. or clean, lead free water for drinking, as in Flint, for the subject matter. Exactly how does any private corporation influence public concerns or political officials elected to government decide their constituents' fate? Stay tuned to the news.
With plenty of applause for this comical, rousing and relevant musical, Lyric Arts adds live music under the direction of Elise Beckel Santa. Gabriel Gomez's imaginative three tiered scenic design alongside Eric Voight's lighting design, which incorporates the exceptional use of flashlights in the theater, which adds ominous ambiance of the metaphorical Urintetown. Penelope Fresch's energetic choreography delivers the punch to the music, and to the ensemble numbers. This great technical team under McNabb's astute direction stages a clever, contemporary play with music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann collaborated with book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, that resonates far into the current century and political climate. Where would the audience find a Urinetown in 2017?
Lyric Arts presents URINETOWN The Musical at the Main Street Stage through April 2. For information or tickets, please visit: www.lyricarts.org.