Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Urinetown"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"Urinetown"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Providence College's last show of their season is the Broadway show "Urinetown" which won three Tony Awards in 2002. "Urinetown" is set in the future where a 20 year drought of epic proportions has forced corrupt city officials to come up with a unique way to conserve water:people may 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", "Annie", "Fiddler on the Roof", "West Side Story" and Gershwin romances simultaneously. It is a satirical musical that pokes fun at capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement and petty-small town politics. Director Mary Farrell infuses this show with high energy and casts all the roles perfectly. Choreographed by Colleen Burns, she creates all the clever dance steps which spoof these shows beautifully including the bottle dance from "Fiddler" while music director Lila Kane supplies the musical direction and lovely harmonization's of the cast to pull off this unique and funny show. This multitalented 19 member college cast blows the roof off the theatre with their powerful performances,earning them a well deserved standing ovation at curtain call.

Mary makes all her performers portray these bigger than life roles in a cartoon-like manner which keeps the audience enthralled with the farcical elements of the show. Lila's expertise shines through with the topnotch vocals of the cast and she also plays the piano with her four member orchestra. Colleen, a junior who I reviewed earlier in the season in "Charley's Aunt" not only choreographs the show but sings and dances in it, too.The show's narrator, Officer Lockstock, greets us and informs us through the lyrics of his first song which is"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 won't be seen until the second act. The opening number is reminiscent of "Three Penny Opera". Lockstock's lines are clever, witty and humorous and are delivered perfectly by one of the biggest scene stealers, Dan Travers. He has proven his acting prowess in "Funny Girl" but he gets to show off his strong singing and dancing talents as this character. Dan leads off with the opening title song and leads his fellow cop and zombies 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 officer, Barrel is humorously played by Patrick Knight as a bumbling aide to the chief cop. He uses a higher pitch to his speaking voice and has a wonderful tenor singing voice. Another scene stealer is Sarah Bedard as Little Sally who is the voice of reason in this madcap show and first appears in roller skates, carrying a stuffed shaggy dog with her through most of the show.. She asks all these hard questions of Lockstock who is unable to answer them including metaphysical and hydraulics questions, she also mocks the horrible name for the show and says it isn't a happy show.. Sarah gets to show off her strong singing voice in the group numbers and in "Tell Her I Love Her" about Bobby leaving a Hope, a farewell message before he was sent to Urinetown forever. The young lovers in the show are Bobby Strong, a poor boy and Hope Cladwell, a rich girl played Ryan Desaulniers and Suzanne Keyes who I first reviewed in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" two years ago. They meet and fall in love when his father is arrested and brought to Urinetown for peeing without payment.(One of the first hilarious bit in a show filled with them when Daniel Roe as Old Man Strong turns his back to the audience and supposedly whips it out peeing into the orchestra pit which is covered with netting so cast members can climb up and down from the pit to enter from the sewer system of the town.) Suzanne is dressed in red gingham dress with ruby slippers and acts like a cross between Shirley Temple and Judy Garland, she continually says 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 which is a hoot and Hope tells him to follow what it tells him to do. Ryan also sings "Look At the Sky" which is like "One Day More" from "Les Miserables" (Colleen and the other singers/dancers wave the flags in this number) Bobby realizes he must kidnap Hope to win their demands from Cladwell and they run up the stairs of the theatre in slow motion to end Act 1. and the revival song, "Run Freedom Run" which is like "Sit Down Your Rockin' the Boat" from "Guys and Dolls" while Suzanne sings the powerful ballad "I See a River" while the chorus waves two scarves behind her to simulate the river and dance during it. They play their parts beautifully.

The villain of the show is Caldwell B. Cladwell who controls the public amenities corporation, treating his lowly cohorts like dirt. Alexander C. MacIntyre who played the lead in "Charley's Aunt" earlier this season, is a hoot as this Snidley Whiplash type cad who gets to sing and strut his stuff in the "Mr. Cladwell" number with his minions ( a kick-line and Charleston are done in this song as Hope sings and dances on his desk) as well as in "Don't Be a Bunny" which is like "Little Girls" from "Annie" with Alexander singing to his cohorts who wear one glove pretending to be rabbits as he kills four puppet bunnies on his desk. Conor Leary does a good job as Mr. McQueen, Cladwell's right hand man who gets to do his dirty work while the talented Matt Hassan plays Senator Fipp, a shifty public official who gets to show off his singing voice in the quintet number, "Why Did I Listen to that Man?'' with Lockstock, Barrel, Hope and Samantha Brilhante who plays the Brechtian like character Penelope Pennywise. She runs the public toilet # 9 with an iron fist. Pretty brunette, Samantha plays the bitchy 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 and in "I'm Sorry" with Cladwell after she spills a secret from their past and it plays out like a scene from "Sweeney Todd". Samantha sounds like Tallulah Bankhead when she lowers her voice during the show, while threatening the people and she confesses to what she did during the stink years and believe her it wasn't pretty. (She gave another powerful performance last year as Mrs. Brice in "Funny Girl" and earlier this season as Donna Lucia in "Charley's Aunt") Other scene stealers include Daniel Roe with a mohawk-hair style as Hot Blades Harry and Colleen Burns as Little Becky Two-Shoes (who is padded to appear pregnant.)They lead the topnotch chorus in "Snuff That Girl" which sounds like "Cool" from "West Side Story" and in "We're Not Sorry" which is an energetic Charleston. Statuesque Kaitlin Fitzsimons shines as Bobby's mother with all her crazy shenanigans as the grieving widow and frail mother who climbs all over the two story set with ease also keeping Hope tied to the chair during the kidnapping sequence The multitude of gorgeous colorful costumes are by David Costa-Cabral (especially funny are the matching suits of Cladwell, McQueen and Fipp in mustard color, royal blue and purple with matching shoes and large diamond dollar-sign pins on their lapels) while scenic design is by Katryne Hecht. The two story scaffolding set with stairways and dinghy paint job to make it look filthy and the sliding on and off sets for the various scene changes is impressive. The excellent lighting design is by Tim Cryan and hard working stage manager Brandon Ferretti and his hard working crew keep things running smoothly all night long. So for a fun filled evening of a contemporary musical which will keep you in stitches all night long, be sure to catch "Urinetown" at Providence College.

"Urinetown" (3 - 19April)
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE
Angells Blackfriars Theatre, 549 River Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 865-2218

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