Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Urinetown Theatre III"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark


"Urinetown"

Music & Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book & Lyrics by Greg Kotis

Directed by Tom Wachtell
Music Director Cindi Silverman
Vocal Director Susie Allen
Choreographer Christine Campbell

Assistant Director Marlene Wachtell
Producers Sherry Rider & Becky Rockwell
Executive Producer Mary O'Laughlin
Set Design & Construction by Kevin Cassidy
Set Artistic Design by Caroline Kurman
Costume Design by LDonna Plummer & Bridget Cullen
Lighting Design by Bruce gray & Mike Repeta
Sound Design by Marty Krasnick
Properties by Paula Ruberti McNabb
Make-up & Hair by Annette Dior
Stage Manager Paula Ruberti McNabb

Bobby Strong.....................Steve Shamah
Caldwell B. Cladwell................Tom Ryder
Penelope Pennywise...............Pat Lawrence
Little Sally...............Caroline N. Kurman
Officer Lockstock................Craig Howard
Hope Cladwell..............Michelle Margulies
Bobby The Stockfish...............Gina Naggar
Officer Barrel...................Tom Wachtell
Senator Fipp.....................Kevin Butler
Mr. McQueen........................Mike Lague
Little Becky Two-Shoes...........Wendy Linden
Mr. McQueen.......................Jordan Lage
Old Man Strong/Hot Blades Harry....Rick Woods
Tiny Tom/Dr. Bileaux.............Dave Kulvete
Soupy Sue..................Beth Nolan Conners
Josephine Strong................Perry Allison
Mrs. Millennium/Tory Lava..........Pam Sontag
Billy Boy Bill.................Rudy Borkowski
Secretary Clementine Klumph...Mary O'Loughlin
Patty Sweetpea...................Sherry Ryder
Pete Pettypusher..................Dan Kircher
Peg Poundfoolish...................Nancy Laws
Sparkles Butterbur..............Kelly Purpura
Jamie Dean..................Mary Helan Turner

COP SONG DANCERS
Rudy Borkowski, Craig Howard, Kelly Purpura, Sherry Ryder, Mary Helan Turner, Tom Wachtell, Rick Woods

ORCHESTRA
Piano..........Cindi Silverman
Percussion.........Cesar Garde
Reeds............Zach Chadwick
Trombone...........David Tweed
Bass..............Marvin Drake
Bass.............Lee Mapletoft
Conductor......Cindi Silverman

Someone on the Crew for "Urinetown" at South Acton's THEATRE III found in their Props Closet a big bright-red neon sign that said "EXPOSITION" --- and, of course, they had to use it. And that I think is typical of the flood of productions of this irreverent musical: everyone in this 22-person ensemble gets at least one line, but everyone gets to add their own touches to the mix. When the subject came up early in the show, and that red light snapped on, it was obvious that this suburban community theatre had a unique hit on its hands. (And they have one week-end to go!)

This is a performer-friendly big-cast romp everyone loves --- and the fourth I've seen this year. When Theatre III called the publisher asking about their sanctioning competing local productions they replied that even if two different companies were working in the same building they'd be able to buy rights to the show. It may soon be possible to cross the United States going each week-end from Urinetown to Urinetown, like Eliza crossing the river on cakes of ice! So the true joy is in noting the different details in each new version of the same show.

In the last three incarnations I have seen, the people playing Little Sally have gotten progressively taller; here Caroline N. Kurman emphasizes the innocence and precociousness of this exposition-heavy child by twirling one braid when succintly puncturing the shaky logic of the plot. And her approach fits perfectly in an emphasis here on the Brechtian approach, especially in Act One.

Little Sally and narrator Officer Lockstock (Craig Howard) keep insisting that this is A Musical --- but on the Theatre III stage the musical has a spine of realism: Musical Theater realism. That's clear when Steve Shamah playing Bobby Strong (The Hero) leads the scruffy downtrodden populace to "Look at The Sky" in ringing tones of aspiration worthy of, say, the hero of "West Side Story". But these serious notes are there to be broken. In Act Two when Shamah conducts the rabble in a chorus of "Run, Freedom, Run", even with his back to the audience his complicated footwork and, well, tush-work, must be seen to be believed!

There's a lot of excellent dance here --- another chorus number for seven limber cops, a lyrical soft-shoe for Tom Ryder as the smarmy tyrant Caldwell B. Cladwell, and a whole curtain-call set of linked dances that most community theatres here have cut, but Christine Campbell didn't.
Bravo!!

Aside from satirical send-ups of famous musicals, the Second Act becomes a battle of the people against a greedy establishment over "The Privelege to Pee" for Free! And it may be that I've become an obsessed political junky, but a subtextual metaphor of the recent Congressional elections seemed to me inescapable.

Kevin Cassidy's set design cleared the stage and rigged second-story walkways around its three sides outlined with bright bare-copper tubing, so when the action shifted to the sewers it felt right at home. And a bang-up, cookin'-band led by Cindi Silverman's Kurt Weill-esque percussive piano worked perfectly with Susie Allen's vocal direction. And Director Tom Wachtell, who stepped into the part of Officer Barrell saw to it that everything and everyone fit together as a sum of all its excellent parts.

In other words, this is a rousingly satisfying "Urinetown" from the occasional buzz-saw note that Pat Lawrence hits as Penelope Pennywise to the ensemble work of, say, Gina Naggar as Bobby The Stockfish. (The names alone in this show are a laugh riot!)

And there is one other aspect of the production deserving note: nearly a third of the people involved are on the Theatre III stage for the first time --- and at least half a dozen people privately whispered to me that they had never seen a more ego-less, ensemble-ambience in people eager to work together. Theatre III takes deserved pride in its artistic achievements, and this show will I'm sure become a legendary high-point --- but the experience of this show, for the new blood, suggests there are similar triumphs in their future for a long time to come.

Bravo!

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

"Urinetown" (3 - 18 November)
THEATRE III
250 Central Street, WEST ACTON, MA
1 (978)263-9070

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