BWW Reviews: Balagan and SMT's URINETOWN Sets an Almost Perfect Tone
If you're going to go after a quirky, off kilter show such as "Urinetown", you need to go for the over-stylized melodrama aspect of it or don't even bother. Well Balagan Theatre has never been one to shy away from that "go big or go home" mentality and their current co-production with Seattle Musical Theatre is no exception. But as over the top as it is, it just doesn't quite reach the heights of satire in some places to really push the show into the realm of sardonic gold.
The story is fairly straightforward and not at all difficult to follow as it's practically handed to you on a sliver platter by the show's quasi-narrators Officer Lockstock and Little Sally (Douglas Willott and Tatum Ludlam). There's a terrible drought in town to the point that all water must be regulated even that used for peeing. So people must pay for the privilege to pee at a public amenity such as the one run by the tough Miss Pennywise (Kate Jaeger). But when the public get tired of lining the pockets of people like Caldwell B. Cladwell (Michael L. Warner) to do their business, headstrong Bobby Strong (Frederick Hagreen) leads a revolution against Cladwell. But what will that mean for his budding romance with Cladwell's daughter Hope (Molli Corcoran)?
With a killer set and lighting design from Jared Roberts and Ahren Buhmann, the dark and murky tone for the show is off to a great start. And director Jake Groshong takes that tone and feeds into it that quirky melodramatic style by the bucket full. True, there were some timing issues (comedic and otherwise) that were a bit off the night I saw it but they will undoubtedly settle in with time. But it's that surreal style that the show needs and it's there ... for the most part.
Hagreen and Corcoran are adorable as the would be lovers and make superb heroes for the piece. Especially Hagreen whom I haven't seen take on a lead like this before and he completely shines in the role. Jaeger not only manages her usual hilarity but is also the standard for the style of the piece with her no nonsense 40's dame patter approach to the role. Willott and Ludlam each bring a silly honesty to their roles and the narration making the show that much more fun. And I have to call out Jeff Orton and Tori Spero who take on a couple of supporting roles as crazed townspeople and completely steal the show with their solos. But it was Warner where I was a little let down. Sure is voice is good but I didn't quite feel the malevolence of a melodrama villain from him. As I said before, go big or go home and I just didn't feel that big presence from him making the bad guys of the piece seem not all that bad.
The varied musical styles of the piece are handled gorgeously by music director Mathew Wright and his kick ass band and are only complimented by some equally varied and cool dance numbers from choreographer Spero. And that air of cool is infused throughout the entire show. As I said it's almost there but even with what I saw it still earns itself a YAY with my three letter rating system. And not to worry, I'm sure they'll let you pee at intermission. For a price!
"Urinetown" from Balagan Theatre and Seattle Musical Theatre performs at SMT though August 24th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.balagantheatre.org.