Monday, June 1, 2015

Urinetown: The Musical - Pee Before You Go

By Mona Lott

Why didn't you go before we left? That's going to be the question of the night if you attend Urinetown: The Musical at The Bug Theater. Not because there aren't toilets, but because you have to pay to use them and the attendants can be a little surly, if you know what I mean.

Luckily, Equinox Theater provides you with your own bathroom token at the box office, knowing that the joke will only go so far, even though that very joke sustains a full two act show with infectious music and toilet humor that kept me smiling to the very finale!

Urinetown was the brainchild of Greg Kotis who was inspired upon encountering a pay toilet during his European travels as a student on a budget in the late nineties. He went on to write the book and the lyrics with Mark Hollmann, who also wrote the music. The show hit Broadway at The Henry Miller Theater in September of 2001.

A musical about a drought that makes peeing in private a luxury that no one is allowed due to corporate greed and laws that require the poor and downtrodden to pay at public toilets was definitely a hard sell for Kotis, but thanks to the New York Fringe Festival, Urinetown got it's break and went on to be nominated for a Best Musical Tony in 2002.

Equinox's production is tiny, crammed onto the small stage at The Bug Theater, but it doesn't stop the rather large cast from making the most of every inch on the stage. Especially striking is some very clever choreography created by Colin Roybal who also directs this exuberant production. The ensemble is excellent, especially when they join together in harmony on "Look At The Sky." Most notable is Tim Luoma as Hot Blades Harry, who brings great conviction and energy to the second act in "Snuff That Girl."

Bobby Strong, the young protagonist who becomes a rebel leading a free pee uprising, is played by Kalond Irlanda.Though he brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to the part of Bobby, he is almost swallowed up by the sheer magnificence of the character; a character named by the New York Theater Monthly as one of the 100 greatest roles in musical theater. Also on the list is the role of Hope Cladwell, the daughter of the evil corporate mastermind controlling the public urinals and the girl who steals Bobby's heart. Carolyn Lohr plays Hope with a keen sense of comedy, making sure every note of humor is played with reckless abandonment, though it is obviously very well controlled by a competent actress.

Officer Lockstock, in the hands of Dave Gordon, is the narrator of the story doing double duty as the policeman on the prowl for felony urinaters who he sends to the sinister sounding Urinetown. Gordon, who possesses a gorgeous deep bass of a voice, is accomplished in the role though he didn't quite make the sly, winking connection with the audience that the character demands.

The veterans in the show are Jim Hitzke as the corporate creep, Caldwell B. Cladwell, and Shahara Ray as the hapless, hard-as-nails Penelope Pennywise who is relegated to managing Public Amenity #9 in a sort of self preservation. Hitzke is sleazy in all the right ways, making you love to hate him and Ray commands the stage from the instant she appears. Both bring grit and antagonistic goodness to the show with excellent voices and strong characterizations.

Equinox has a hit on it's hands with Urinetown, masterfully directed and choreographed by Colin Roybal. It runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 through June 6th. The songs are full of joy and the show contains enough jokes to keep you laughing till you have to pee, though you'll need a token to do so!