Urinetown: The Musical, winner of three Tony awards in 2002, is a delightfully irreverent romp, frequently reminding the audience that it is watching a musical while also poking fun at musical theatre. Puns abound amidst broad comedy punctuated by humorous criticism of corporate greed and its sidekick, corruption. It’s a saturated satire that spares no one.
In a world where drought has led to a loss of private toilets, a private corporation, Urine Good Company (UCG) now controls all restroom amenities. Everyone must now, pay to pee. Of course, the rates are outrageous, but health laws prevent public urination. And not paying is not an option. That’s a crime that is severely punished with Urinetown as the final destination.
The Justice Theater Project’s production, directed by Nancy Rich, fully embraces both the parody and sarcastic social criticism. This cast leans into the silly stereotypes and owns them, sometimes winking to make sure the audience knows they are also in on the joke. There is a plot, but that’s not what’s important. It’s the fun that’s being had at the expense of the musical.
Officer Lockstock, the show’s narrator, is played by a thoroughly engaging Rob Steinberg. His marvelously rich voice sets the tone in his welcome address. Along with a precocious orphan, Little Sally, played by a wise-cracking Sarah Preston, they offer a running commentary that’s both hilarious and keeps the audience at a distance. It helps maintain the overall campiness of the piece.
Where the show succeeds the most is in the musical parodies of other Broadway shows like Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, and Evita. There is a classic love duet along with a bit of gospel, and other riffs performed tongue-in-cheek to great comic effect. Under the musical direction of Katherine Anderson, these numbers are uplifting and creatively amusing. Jeffrey Nugent’s set design is outstanding, accommodating a cast of almost two dozen to freely move about the stage.
As for the plot that’s interspersed among the musical numbers, it’s corny, yet fulfills the spirit of the show. The poor are tired of counting their pennies and lining up to pee. A young hero emerges, the dashing Bobby Strong (Nicky Taylor) who will lead a revolution. Naturally he falls in love, after a chance meeting, with no less than the daughter of the greedy chairman of UCG. So of course, there are complications and general pandemonium to reach an ironic conclusion. No moral in this story.
Director Rich has brought together a talented group of performers. Taylor displays some fine vocal chops, and creates believable chemistry with his love interest, Hope Cladwell, played with an earnest naivete by Krystin Bailey. Tony Hefner seems to be channeling his inner Lindsay Graham with his over-the-top portrayal of Caldwell B. Cladwell, the corporate miser who delights in extorting from the poor. Susan Jordan Shank shines as the tough Penelope Pennywise who manages the private urinal, and Clare Vestal was a standout in ensemble performances with her dance moves and wonderful facial expressions. Riki R. Dows was also notable with her vocal contributions. Great credit to each and every actor investing a great deal of individuality in their characters to make them stand out.
This production of Urinetown:The Musical, in its mashup of Broadway musicals, is just the right type of theater to kick off the summer.
The Justice Theater Project’s production of Urinetown runs through June 25. For more information visit http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/.