Review: Fun and Games at URINETOWN THE MUSICAL

By: Nov. 28, 2016
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Urinetown The Musical/book & lyrics by Greg Kotis/music & lyrics by Mark Hollman/directed by Kari Hayter/Coeurage Theatre Company at The Historic Lankershim Arts Center/through December 3/extension: January 6 - February 25, 2017 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm

Coeurage Theatre Company are known around town as the rebels, the 'pay what you want' company. Their motto? "Nobody should have to pay high prices to see good theatre". Nice reminder in these depression era times where our government is wracked by the entree of a despicably inept political leader and the majority of our middle-class struggle to make ends meet. The locale of this satirical musical comedy Urinetown, which had its Broadway run in 2001 with 10 Tony nominations, is a typicAl Small city in a futuristic time where a drought has caused a water shortage and its citizens no longer have private amenities. They must urinate in public places and pay a fee to do so. The greedy Urine Good Company controls the enterprise, and if people pee in the bushes, they are arrested and thrown into Urinetown. Now in a striking production by the Coeurage Theatre Company at the Historic Lankershim Arts Center, the rarely revived Urinetown strikes s chord in our troubled times, as audiences laugh away problems that, when it comes right down to it, may not be that unimaginable.

Make no mistake about it, Urinetown as a satire is one big overblown cartoon, a fairy tale gone to extremes, and as such is rousingly funny. Words and phrases are intensely exaggerated in dialogue and song. Yet despite its cartoonishness, there's a real spark of gutterlike reality that pokes its head through vehemently as people march rebelliously around the stage like the revolutionaries straight out of Les Mis. It grabs audience attention from the getgo... and there isn't one narrator, but two: brusque Officer Lockstock (Ted Barton) and poor downtrodden homeless kid Little Sally (Nicole Monet) who set the tone of Urinetown. Little Sally observes and questions "What is Urinetown?" Lockstock answers, "This is Urinetown the Musical. You won't see Urinetown until Act II". Little Sally: "If musical comedy is supposed to end happily with good winning over evil, why is Urinetown the same?" The answer: "That's just the way it goes, kiddo!" Or some similar remark. Yes, this is an inside look at the structure of musical comedy as well as a political satire. These two narrators keep it all on track, never allowing us to forget where we are or what is truly happening. This adds so much humor in Greg Kotis's stellar book...and in Mark Hollman's pounding and uplifting musical score. Both blend together beautifully. grab hold of you and do not let go.

I won't spoil the plot, other than to say that Urine Good Company is run by evil Caldwell B. Cladwell (Gary Lamb) whose daughter Hope (Ashley Kane) - now isn't this the perfect name for a heroine? - falls in love with Bobby Strong (Daniel Bellusci), the young revolutionary who represents the people her father keeps securely underfoot. Does she stay loyal to her family roots or does she switch sides and help to champion the cause for justice? Well, you'll see when you see the play.

With Kari Hayter's brilliant staging and Christopher M. Albrecht's astounding choreography to guide them, the cast are nothing short of a marvel. Everyone has his or her turn in the spotlight, but there are per usual some standout performances. Barton and Monet are sensationally gutsy as the narrators, Lamb appropriately stern, hateful and dictatorial as Cladwell. and Bellusci and Kane deliciously on target as the revolutionary lovers. Janna Cardia steals her scenes as the outraged and outrageous Penelope Pennywise and in a smaller role, Jamie Pierce is a standout as the very gay assistant to Cladwell, Mr. McQueen. The entire ensemble of 16 are triple threat performers who make the stage come alive with their daunting singing, dancing and acting. Matt Scarpino's set design is bleak and functionally on target and Emily Brown Kucera's costumes, right.on dismal or colorful as the case may be. Praise as well to musical director Gregory Nabours and to piano accompanist Peter Shannon, who plays magnificently.

Don't miss Urinetown the Musical! And...please don't be put off by the title! It's fun, fun, fun from beginning to end, and the heart-pounding music will pick you up and give you a spirited will to stand up and fight for what is right! As to the rebellious Coeurage Theatre Company, they have achieved what they set out to do, bring great theatre to the community at an affordable price.