“Who would see a show with a title like this?” asks Little Sally, a ragtag gamine, during Urinetown, The Musical.
Well, a lot of people did see it when it was on Broadway and won three Tony Awards. The Morgan-Wixson Theatre’s production of the Mark Hollman (music and lyrics) and Greg Kotis (book and lyrics) musical is packing them in. As it should, it’s funny, entertaining and makes some sociopolitical points.
In Urinetown, a generic town has been experiencing drought for 20 years and the need to conserve water has led to the severe measure of a tax on all toilets. As a result, a greedy entrepreneur, Caldwell Cladwell, has formed the Urine Good Company, which owns all the pay toilets. Citizens of this town have to pay to pee. The poor beg for spare change to go to the “Public Amenity” run by the feisty Penny Pennywise.
Bobby Strong, who cleans up for Public Amenity #9, sees his father dragged off by the police for relieving himself against a wall when he doesn’t have enough cash for the facility. A chance encounter with the lovely Hope gives Bobby hope for change (as well as love). Bobby spearheads a protest against the pay toilets, but he doesn’t know that Hope is Cladwell’s daughter. Can their love survive revolution, kidnapping and the urges of the heart and bladder?
This is dark humor, but in an age when it seems that people do stand on long lines and pay high prices for everything, it doesn’t even seem that far from the truth.
Director Valerie Rachelle and Morgan-Wixson veteran Anne Gesling as musical director/producer, worked very hard with the ensemble cast to pull off this production and it shows. As Gesling observed during a post-performance audience chat: “The ensemble is in every number and it’s all four-part harmony.” This show’s ensemble has the voices to work that harmony. Astonishingly, they are not “miked” for soun, what you hear is their natural voices. That’s how good they are.
Choreographer Keenon Hooks (who also plays Hot Blades Harry) has done wonders with the dances and moves. His touches include some takeoffs on other musicals, the funniest of which was a “Fiddler on the Roof” playing a fiddle with a toilet plunger instead of a bow.
Although everyone deserves credit, some of the standout performers are: Andrea Paquin as the shrill-voiced Little Sally (a sort of Greek chorus character who tries to learn the show’s meaning from Officer Lockstock), Justin Waggle as the aforementioned Lockstock, the police officer and ironic narrator, and Keaton Talmadge as the sweet, but deceptively so, Hope. Also memorable are Michael Heimos as Cladwell and David Laffey as the sturdy hero Bobby Strong.
By all means, see Urinetown, the Musical. But be sure you go somewhere else (you know where) first—and be glad you have the privilege.
Urinetown, The Musical, through April 10, 8pm Fridays-Saturdays, 2pm Sundays, $18-$23, Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., 310.828.7519.
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com