Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Urinetown"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Urinetown"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Summer Stage show at Hendricken is "Urinetown" which won three Tony Awards in 2002. "Urinetown'' is set in the future where a twenty year drought of epic proportions has forced corrupt public officials to come up with a unique way to conserve water:people many only use public restrooms and they must pay for the privilege. Urinetown imagines what would happen if "It's a Privilege to Pee" as one of the songs explains. The Urine Good Company monitors the use of public toilets and the poor are forced to pay drastic amounts to use them. Fed-up citizens take to the streets, but those caught breaking the law are carted off to the mysterious Urinetown never to be seen again. A musical filled with comedy, murder, and rebellion that follows one rule:expect the unexpected. This satirical musical pokes fun at and sends up "The Threepenny Opera", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Annie", "West Side Story" and Gershwin romances simultaneously. It also pokes fun at captialism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement and petty small town politics. Director Brian Codeiro infuses this show with high energy and casts all the roles perfectly with Summer Stage alumni. Richie Sylvia supplies the musical direction and lovely harmonizations of the cast while Jade Genga creates all the dance steps to spoof these other musicals including the Mambo from "West Side Story". These multitalented performers knock your socks off with their powerhouse presentation and rehearsed for only two weeks like a professional summer stock theatre.

Brian makes his cast portray these larger than life roles in a cartoon like manner which keeps the audience enthralled at the farcical elements of the show. Richie's expertise shines through with the topnotch vocals and his five piece orchestra. Jade's dances include kick-line, Charleston,mambo and Fosse style moves to name a few. The show's narrator Officer Lockstock greets and informs us through the lyrics of his first song, "Urinetown"-"Better hope your pennies add up to the fee, we can't have you peeing for free." He informs everyone that Urinetown is a mythical place filled with symbolism and stuff like that but it won't be seen until the second act. The opening number is reminiscent of "The Threepenny Opera". Lockstock's lines are clever, witty and hilarious and are delivered by one of the biggest scene stealers, James Patefield. He returns in triumph after his sophomore year at college, having previously played Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables" and Lt. Cioffi in "Curtains". James sings the opening song and then leads his fellow cop in a song and dance number called "Cop Song" which reminds you of "Trouble" from "The Music Man". The zombies act out how they were each caught peeing illegally and sentenced to Urinetown. His fellow cop, Barrel is humorously played by Sean Flaherty as a bumbling aide to the chief cop. He uses a comical speaking voice and has a wonderful singing voice. Another scene stealer is Katie Ryan as Little Sally who is the voice of reason in this madcap show. She first appears and startles Officer Lockstock. Little Sally asks Lockstock all the hard questions which he is unable to answer about metaphysics and hydraulics as well as mocking the horrible name for the show, saying it isn't a happy show. Katie gets to show off her voice in the group numbers and in "Tell Her I Love Her" about Bobby leaving Hope a farewell message before he is sent to Urinetown. Joseph joins her in this number, making it one of the most poignant ones in the show. The young lovers in the show, Bobby Strong, a poor boy and Hope Cladwell, a rich girl are played by Joseph Fielding and Tessa Ricci. They meet and fall in love when his father is arrested and brought to Urinetown for peeing without payment. One of the first hilarious bits in a show filled with many of them is Davis Alianiello as Old Man Strong, peeing in an aisle of the theatre. Davis will be directing the Summer Stage's next show "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown". Tessa plays Hope as a send up of a movie ingenue with a little bit of a lisp, continually uttering that she is new in town and doesn't understand what her evil father is doing. When this happens, Bobby decides to stage an uprising, not realizing that Hope's father is the culprit. They get to show off their powerful tenor and soprano voices in "Follow Your Heart" where they listen to each others heart with Hope telling him to follow it. Joseph also sings "Look at the Sky" which is like "One Day More" from "Les Miserables" with the singers and dancers waving flags and it is when he realizes he must kidnap Hope to win their demands from Cladwell. They run around the stage in slow motion at the end of Act 1. He sings the revival song called "Run Freedom Run" which is like "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" from "Guys & Dolls". Tessa sings the powerful ballad "I See a River" while the chorus waves scarves to symbolize the river like Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet from "The King & I". Joseph and Tessa are terrific in these roles, capturing the hearts of the audience.

The villian of the show is Caldwell B. Cladwell who controls the public amenities corporation, treating his cohorts like dirt. Michael Squittiere who previously played Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" two years ago, plays this Snidley Whiplash type cad who gets to sing and strut his stuff in the "Mr. Cladwell" number with his minions while doing a kick-line and a Charleston. Michael also does "Don't Be a Bunny" where he chokes stuffed bunnies while his cohorts do a bunny dance in the background. It sounds like "Little Girls" from "Annie". Davis does double duty in the show as Mr. McQueen, Cladwell's righthand man who gets to do all his dirty work. He uses an Irish accent in this role and gets punched out by Hope in the last scene. Christopher Maymon plays Senator Flip, a shifty public official who gets to show off his marvelous tenor voice in the sextet number "Why Did I Listen to That Man" with Joseph,James, Sean, Tessa and Kendra White. He wears an Elvis Presley wig and black horn rimmed glasses as the Senator, acting tres gay, too. Chris also plays a barefoot cross-eyed, poor man, Tiny Tom which is a hoot as he towers over the other performers. Kendra plays the Brechtian like character Penelope Pennywise. She runs public toilet #9 with an iron fist. She plays this bitchy, bossy broad with the right amount of sassiness and gets to sing "It's a Privilege to Pee" with her poor customers while threatening to turn them into the cops as well as in "I'm Sorry" with Michael after she spills Cladwell's secret from their past. It plays out like a scene from "Sweeney Todd". Kendra tells the audience what she did during the stink years as she reveals her secret past. Other scene stealers include Jerald Kaplan and Malari Martin as Hot Blades Harry and Becky Two Shoes who is padded to appear pregnant. They lead the chorus in "Snuff the Girl" which sounds like "Cool" from "West Side Story" as they and the chorus do a jazz dance and mambo. They also do "We're Not Sorry" which is an energetic Charleston. Annalisa Carmosino shines as Bobby's mother with all her crazy shenanigans. The two story set is by Jason LeClair while the multitude of lovely costumes are by Theresa Pearson. Hard working stage manager Alex McKhann keep things running smoothly all night long. So for a fun filled evening of a contemporary musical, be sure to catch "Urinetown" which will keep you in stitches all night long.

"Urinetown" (24 & 25 June)
SUMMER STAGE AT HENDRICKEN
@ 2615 Warwick Avenue,WARWICK RI
1(401)739-3450 ext. 172

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