Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Urinetown"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark


Music & Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book & Lyrics by Greg Kotis
Directed by Nancy Curran Willis
Music Direction by Markus Hauck
Choreography by Maia Kipman

Scenic Design by Jackie Wolozin, Ryan DuBray
Lighting Design by Colin Chauche
Sound Design by Ben Truppin-Brown
Costume Design by Valerie Coimbra
Costume Supervisor Martha Heller
Assistant Director Sarah Golden Martin
Produced by Jeff Knoedler
Assistant Music Director Will Morningstar
Student Technical Director Drew Silverman
Props Master David Schlenker
Master Electrician Gaul Porat
Light Board Operator A. J. Coukos
Sound Board Operator Ben Truppin-Brown
Assistant Stage Manager David Schlenker
Stage Manager Raviva Hanser

Piano.....................Markus Hauck
Soprano & Alto Sax..........David Feig
Clarinet & Bass Clarinet...Nathan Chan
Trombone...............Jennine Dearolf
Bass.........................Dan Radin
Drums.....................Luke Peynson
Percussion..................Will Radin
Conductor.................Markus Hauck

Every time I see "Urinetown" I'm struck by how good, and how original and New it looks --- and the Newton South High School production was no exception. Rather than a bright, theater-conscious comedy, this turned out to have a "film noir" look and tone that emphasized its relationship to the edgy pardies of Bertolt Brecht. And in every one (I've seen five so far) the choreography has been different. Here Maia Kipman (still a student) filled much of the second act with moving masses of young bodies and quotes from famous choreographers and musicals from the past. And Director Nancy Curran Willis, Music Director Marcus Hauck, and Technical Director Ryan DuBray (though grown-ups) kept right up with her.

How did they do it? Well, they started off by filling the auditorium with cops: billy-clubbed cops, hancuff-carrying cops, walkie-talkied cops, no-nonsense, on-the-lookout cops ready to point out behavior or deliver warnings; not in-your-face cops, but aware, observant, aloofly respectful embodiments of The Law. They seeded the air with just enough edge to make the dire consequences of an illegally unpaid urination in the bushes a vague but disturbing reality when the explanatory scenes and songs emerged.

They did it by refusing to lunge for the easy laughs that are everywhere in the songs and story, by treating the oppression that insists "No one pees for free" more as fact than fun. By Under-playing the satire, keeping even the most ridiculous aspects of corporate power and greed real, they let the laughs explode out of astonishment at how far things might be pushed.

They recognized the conceit that heroes and lovers, revolutionaries and revolutions are Traditions in theater and must play out their roles --- even when death or failure muddy the outcomes. An audience is always on the side of right versus might, and the cheers and applause and standing ovation came, predictably, exactly where they should.

Most important though: not "playing" a part but "being" a part, one "now" at a time, made an ensemble out of a crowd, and a success out of "Urinetown".

It always does.

( a k a larry stark )

"Urinetown" (8 - 10 February)
140 Brandeis Road, NEWTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide