BWW Review: URINETOWN at Venice Theatre is full of laughs
Summer Stock is alive and well at Venice Theatre. The annual training for young actors desiring to pursue a career in theatre delivered a sensational performance of Tony award-winning Urinetown: The Musical. With music and lyrics by Mark Hollman, Urinetown looks at a small town battling a drought that seems never-ending. The biggest issue the citizens face in this satirical musical is that to help combat the water shortage, everyone must pay to use the public bathrooms. As the song states it is a "Privilege to Pee." The town is full of people who are poor and do not have the means for the daily charge. Caldwell B. Cladwell (played by Kenneth Glesge) runs the public restrooms making millions off others, while creating situations that force the poorest of citizens to continue suffering.
The show is full of cheesy humor which could often lead a cast down a slippery slope. However, these young actors display an amazing sense of comedic timing that leave the audience laughing even when they don't expect to. This is never more evident than with the character Officer Lockstock, played by Charlie Kollar. The show is full of digs at musical theatre and Kollar delivers each one with perfection. His voice is reminiscent of the narrations of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which was a popular cartoon in its day, and Kollar's voice captivates the audience and draws you in to the story from its opening moments.
Jonah McKinley, plays the solemn hero, Bobby Strong, who leads a rebellion against Cladwell after Jonah's dad is exiled from their town for breaking the rules established by Cladwell and his company. Having watched McKinley perform over the years, I am impressed by the continued growth of this young performer. He displayed a unique innocence while commanding the stage which allowed the audience to empathize with his plight.
No musical of this kind would be complete without a love story, and Belle Babcock's portrayal of Hope Cladwell is near-perfect. Hope is torn between her love for Bobby and her loyalty and admiration for her father despite his evil ways. With a stunning voice and naïve demeanor, Babcock becomes the character you cheer for even though you can foresee the outcome that lies ahead for her.
Savannah Sinclair is a presence throughout the show as Mrs. Pennywise, Bobby Strong's boss. Her facial expressions are priceless and she does a magnificent job delivering the diversity of emotions her character must exhibit. It can be difficult to navigate the evolution of a complex character but Sinclair does so flawlessly.
While the show is full of dynamic characters and a superb ensemble, nothing will warm your heart like the role of Little Sally eloquently played by Taylor Reister. The little girl, who in essence narrates the story with Officer Lockstock, is brilliant on the stage. Reister has an incorruptibility that makes you fall in love with her. Her ability to complement Kollar's wit give us moments of true theatre magic.
Director Brad Wages has created a fantastic piece of theatre. Urinetown has so many opportunities to lose an audience if not performed with a high degree of technical skill, but this talented cast never lets that occur. So, while there is some "potty" humor and the content may not be for everyone, if you are looking for a fun night at the theatre with some incredible young actors then this may just be the perfect show for you.
Urinetown: The Musical runs through August 11th. More information can be found at www.venicestage.com
Photo Credit: Renee McVety