Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Urinetown"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Walpole Footlighters first show of their 88th season 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 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 rebellions that follows one rule expect the unexpected. This satirical musical pokes fun at and sends up "The Three Penny Opera", "Fiddler on the Roof","Annie", "West Side Story" and Gershwin romances simultaneously. It also pokes fun at capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corrporate mismanagement and petty small town politics. Director Don Capen infuses this show with high energy, John Ferguson supplies the musical direction and lovely harmonizations of the cast while Don and Lisa Kelleher create all the dance steps to spoof these other musicals. These 25 talented performers dazzle you in this contemporary funny musical.

Don makes his cast portray these larger than life roles in a cartoon like manner which keeps the audience laughing at the farcical elements of the show. John makes the show come to life with topnotch vocals and his five piece orchestra.Don and Lisa's dances include kick-line, Charleston, jazz, ballet and Fosse style moves to name a few of them. The show's narrator Officer Lockstock greets as he enters through the audience and informs us through the lyrics of his first song, "Urinetown" that you "Better hope your pennies add up to the fee, we can't have you peeing for free." He informs everyone 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, Roger Alix-Gaudreau. He sings the opening song and then leads his fellow cops in a song and dance number called "Cop Song" which reminds you of "Trouble" from "The Music Man" and also a bit like "Into the Woods". The cops and zombies act out how they were each caught peeing illegally and sentenced to Urinetown, while doing a flashlight dance to it. His fellow cop, Barrel is humorously played by Rick Chasen as a bumbling aide to the chief cop. He uses a comical speaking voice and shows off his strong singing voice and dancing skills in this role. Another scene stealer is Elaine Sheffield-Bono as Little Sally who is the voice of reason in this madcap show. She first appears and startles Officer Lockstock. Little Sally asks him 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. Elaine 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. This number is one of the most poignant ones in the show. Elaine is a spitfire in this role.

The young lovers are Bobby Strong, a poor boy and Hope Cladwell, a rich girl are played by Dan Kirichok and Claire Lukaczyn. He is tall, dark and handsome and she is a gorgeous brunette. They meet and fall in love when his father is arrested and brought to Urinetown for peeing without paying. One of the first bits in the show is when Tony Rocha as Old Man Strong pees on the stairs. Claire plays Hope as a naive gal, continually uttering 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 tenor and soprano voices in "Follow Your Heart" where they listen to each others heart while Hope tells him to follow it. He also sings "Look at the Sky" which is like "One Day More" from "Les Miserables" with the singers and dancers waving plungers. This is when Bobby 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. Dan sings the revival song called "Run Freedom Run" which is like "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" from "Guys and Dolls". Claire sings the powerful ballad "I See a River". Dan and Claire are wonderful in these roles, capturing the hearts of the audience.

The villain of the show is Caldwell B. Cladwell who controls the public amenities corporation while treating his cohorts like dirt. Craig Truax plays this Snidley Whiplash type cad who gets to sing and strut his stuff in the "Mr. Cladwell" number while he and his minions do a Charleston and a kick-line. He also does "Don't Be a Bunny" where he chokes a stuffed bunny while his cohorts do a bunny dance with bunny ears and tails in the background. The rabbit number sounds like "Little Girls" from "Annie".Georg Motley plays Cladwell's right hand man, Mr. McQueen, who gets to do all his dirty work. Another evil person is Senator Flip played by Mark Chasen. He plays this shifty public official who shows off his voice in the sextet number "Why Did I Listen to That Man" with Bobby, Hope, Lockstock and Barrel as well as Penelope. He acts very lecherous in this role.

The Brechtian like character, Penelope Pennywise runs public toilet #9 with an iron fist. Christie Reading plays this bitchy, bossy broad with the right amount of sassiness. She gets to sing "It's a Privilege to Pee" with her poor customers while threatening to turn them into the cops. Christie also sings "I'm Sorry" with Cladwell after she spills Cladwell's secret from their past which plays out like a scene from "Sweeney Todd" as she tells the audience what she did during the stink years. Other scene stealers include Paul Collins and Jen Ryan 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. They also do "We're Not Sorry" which is an energetic Charleston. Jude Pratt shines as Bobby's mother with all her crazy shenanigans. The two story set was designed by Donald and was built by Roger Pettis while the multitude of costumes are by Kate Smith. Only Hope's costumes have vibrant colors in them. Hard working stage manager Marianne Phinney keeps things running smoothly all night long. So for a rousing fun filled evening of a contemporary musical, be sure to catch "Urinetown". The show will have you laughing all night long.

"Urinetown" (21 October - 6 November)

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide