The plot of Urinetown revolves around a town that has suffered a crippling water shortage due to a 20 year drought, which has led to the banning of private toilets. As is said in the musical itself, it could have focused on any part of the water shortage but it chose to centre on toilet use. A man named Caldwell B. Cladwell owns all the public amenities in the city and uses this to extort money from the poor by charging for their use. Bobby Strong, a lowly toilet maintenance man, starts a revolt against Cladwell to bring about the free use of amenities. All the people want is the ‘privilege to pee’.
Having not seen this musical previously, I was pleasantly surprised by the continuously humorous tone of the performance, including the darker scenes. The American accents used by the cast were on point and I did not detect a slip even once. Jonny Ross-Tatam’s portrayal of Caldwell B. Cladwell was reminiscent of an 18th century plantation owner, both in accent and characterisation, fitting the part perfectly. Nitai Levi, as Bobby Strong, smashed the harder songs of the performance with his strong voice and Eleanor Crowe played the idealistic Hope Cladwell with ease, lightening each scene with her soft voice and smiling features. Both she and Nitai used exaggerated movements to make their performances fit well with the parodistic tone of the production. Douglas Stevenson (Officer Lockstock) in his debut performance was nevertheless able to keep the audience enthralled and switch seemingly between both a villain and the narrator of the piece. Special mentions must go to Little Sally (Rachael Beaty), giving a remarkably convincing performance of a girl much younger than herself, and Tiny Tom (Liam Bradbury), who added humour and delight to every scene change.
Credit must be given to the gritty aesthetic of Maya Sacks’ set design, the realistic and colour coordinated costumes by Kathryn Weaving and Lora Bedford’s simple yet effective lighting design. The production team, headed by Danya Bradley-Barnes, had evidently put a lot of time and thought into the composition of all relevant aspects of Urinetown. I was most impressed with the neon ‘U’ sign above the set, which used different coloured lights to portray thematic changes in the plot. Steven Segaud showed us that he can put together a flawless ensemble which was clearly seen (and heard!) in the strong musical numbers throughout the performance and Sarah Lamb’s choreography left nothing to be desired; the big dance numbers were some of the most impressive parts of the play. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the wonderful direction of Madeleine Flint, a newcomer on the scene, which one would not have guessed from her strong directing.
Unfortunately, there was trouble with the sound. The microphones were sometimes not turned on, which meant that parts of the story were missed by the audience and the sound system blew up twice during the performance. Whilst the group performances were engaging, the scenes with fewer cast members were sometimes lacking, for example, the scene where Bobby and Hope meet for the first time. Their song and dance number could have been more exciting. Having said that, there were also times when there was too much happening on stage. Some dance numbers could have been toned down, especially when there were lots of different actions happening on the stage all at once.
Overall, it was a great rendition of a new and exciting musical, which unlike many others, has a refreshingly melancholy ending.
Guest Reviewer: Megan Burt
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