BWW Review: URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL at Ridgefield Theater Barn
On Thursday, September 6, I had the pleasure of seeing the opening performance of the comedy URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL, at the Ridgefield Theater Barn in Ridgefield, CT. With music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, some strong political statements are satirically made, a positive thing when they are on the right side of the issues, which they are. Director Deb Failla and Musical Director Lisa Riggs Hobbs have truly brought together an extremely talented and cohesive ensemble cast that performs this production in the highest quality way imaginable. As expected, the Ridgefield Theater Barn has yet again put forth a first-rate show, in this case, a musical.
The story is set in a place that is suffering from such an extreme drought, that the government has banned private bathrooms, and charges people to use a public toilet. If the people dare violate these rules, the penalty for public urination is that the violator is arrested and sent off to "Urinetown," never to be seen or heard from again. If you think this sounds farcically absurd, I would argue that the more control we allow government to have over the people, the closer we come to living in such a totalitarian society.
Numerous political statements are brilliantly made, whether overtly or covertly. The message behind the show, at least as I interpreted it, takes a huge stand against environmentalist hysteria used to control the people, big government, and cronyism between government entities and large corrupt corporations. While the show has no guns and mentions nothing about guns, the politically astute can't help but conclude that government oppression of the magnitude depicted in this show could never happen in a society that allows private citizens to carry. It is refreshing to see a show that takes such a responsible approach to addressing modern hot button political issues.
Part of what makes this entire cast so impressive is that they all remain in character at all times, making it particularly amusing in situations where they play someone who is waiting on a long line to use a toilet, while they really have to go! The choreography is breathtaking, with amazing coordination among the cast members. The stage business is realistic, and the band on stage right is talented.
Michael Valinoti shines so brightly in the role of Officer Lockstock, that he wears shades at night on this indoor stage. His stage presence is extremely dynamic in this role that doubles as a narrator who breaks the fourth wall. While Officer Lockstock is responsible for enforcing an unpopular law, the character never truly comes across as a villain, likely due to his rapport with the audience. In my opinion, "Cop Song," is the best song in the show, with Michael Valinoti's strong delivery clearly contributing to what helps make that song such a powerhouse number.
Monica Harrington excels in the role of Little Sally, the character who Officer Lockstock interacts with while he is in his double role as the narrator. Monica Harrington truly brings Little Sally to life with her singing, dancing, and acting, using the perfect vocal tones, facial expressions, movements, and mannerisms to portray this highly likeable young woman who is among the oppressed and panhandling for enough money to use the public toilet, until she joins the revolutionary movement against the toilet fees, while simultaneously remembering to be a loving person towards all people, including the daughter of the oppressor.
Actor Chris Balestriere makes a wonderful central protagonist in his role of Bobby Strong, the revolutionary who leads the charge against the oppressive toilet laws, laws that seriously needed to be flushed. As part of the story's conflict, Bobby Strong romantically falls for Hope Cladwell, the daughter of the head of the corrupt company that profits from the public toilet fees.
Meaghan Elliot magnificently plays Hope Cladwell, a controversial character who claims to have strong moral convictions, but becomes conflicted when the pursuit of decency would require rebelling against her father. She becomes a hostage of the rebellion, a believable damsel in distress for most of Act 2. Will Bobby Strong's feelings for Hope convince him to set her free? Will her father lead a rescue mission to free her? Will Penelope Pennywise who Elyse Jasensky strongly portrays rescue her, and if so, what vested interest does Penelope Pennywise have in Hope Cladwell? If Hope does get rescued, what will then happen to her? Will her passion for Bobby Strong lead to her forgiving him for leading the revolution that abducted her, or will she show the fury of a woman scorned? Come to the show to find out!
Brendan Garnett, in the role of Billy Boy Bill, is only in the spotlight several brief times, but he maximizes every last moment in the spotlight through his facial expressions and physical reactions, exemplifying the reality that whatever role people may have, if they play it the right way, their talent will get noticed by the entire audience.
Impressive performances were also provided by James Habayan, Bill Warncke, Joe Caputo, Shawn Tyler Allen, Rachel Lotstein, Samantha Holomakoff, Rachel Lewis, Lesli Allen, Stephen Emerick, and Duane Lanham.
I highly recommend URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL which is scheduled to continue to run at the Ridgefield Theater Barn in Ridgefield, CT, through September 28, 2018 every Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 P.M., and with Sunday matinees on September 16th and 23rd at 5:00 P.M. For tickets, please go to TheaterBarn. Yes, the theater has air conditioning!