Sunday, April 21, 2019

“Urinetown” Makes You Laugh Till You Wanna….

Mikko Juan and Mari Nelson in Urinetown (Jeff_Carpenter)
Urinetown the Musical
ACT Theatre and 5th Avenue Theatre
(at ACT Theatre)
Through June 2, 2019

There is so much cheeky humor and sarcasm in this ACT Theatre/5th Avenue Theatre joint production of Urinetown the Musical! Bill Berry’s direction is sharp and pointed. He emphasizes both the humor and an ultimately dark message that hits you on the way out the door. The choreography by Charlie Johnson fits the bill with fun all-company movement that really entertains.

The multi-staircased set by Martin Christoffel helps the audience get different scenes to watch without almost any large scene changes. Lighting by Robert Aguilar is particularly effective in helping us know where we should be looking.

A swaggering Brandon O’Neill as Officer Lockstock (and yes, Matthew Posner plays Officer Barrel) narrates in no uncertain terms this satire (a 2002 Tony-winner) that resonates more and more clearly as our politics moves closer to totalitarianism and our climate declines rapidly. Little Sally (Arika Matoba) receives Lockstock’s exposition and comments on it herself, taking it one step further each time.

Climate change was not nearly the impending societal issue in 2002, but this spoof supposes that water has become so scarce, in a 20-year drought, that people’s elimination is regulated. They don’t quite spell out why, but if you think about it, it’s probably because they have to save and reprocess the pee so the water can be extracted for regular uses like showering and watering of crops. Water politics is now looming larger and larger all over the world!

So, a large corporation, Urine Good Company, led by nefarious CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell (Kurt Beattie) now has a monopoly on pay toilets and there are terrible consequences for anyone who doesn’t follow the law and pay to pee. They get hauled off to Urinetown! No one in the general public knows where Urinetown is, but wherever it is, whoever goes there NEVER RETURNS!

Cladwell’s naïve daughter, Hope (Sarah Rose Davis), has just graduated from her very expensive education and come home to work in his corporation, printing and faxing things. But before she gets there, she meets Bobby Strong (Mikko Juan), a young man who helps Penelope Pennywise (Mari Nelson) collect the pee fee, though he wishes he didn’t have to. Of course, they attract each other, and more than that, Hope spreads her idealism to him and sort-of-accidentally causes a people’s revolt!

A versatile ensemble takes on several other roles and includes Andi Alhadeff, Chris Ensweiler, Brian Lange, Leslie Law, Sarah Russell and Nathaniel Tenenbaum. Each of them gets a character or moment to shine.

The musical styles spoof many other Broadway styles and musicals in subtle ways, but are often very big fun: Don’t Be the Bunny being a key song that most kids will likely walk out singing. A small band, headed by music director R.J. Tancioco, is hidden from view and occasionally over-amplified, but does a surprisingly good job with so few instrumentalists.

This is a terrific ensemble cast with many moments to shine. If I start to acknowledge the big belt and presence of Nelson in It’s a Privilege to Pee, and the plaintive sweetness of Davis singing Follow Your Heart, and the anthem-delivery of Juan in Look at the Sky, and…  I’d be trying to name too many individual moments. Suffice to say that this is a great production of this sneakily funny musical!

For more information, go to https://order.acttheatre.org/events/urinetown or call 206-292-7676. 

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