Mac-Haydn’s “Urinetown” an Exciting Trip to a Place You’ve Never Visited
What happens when you put together a dystopian society where the issue is water or the
lack thereof with twisted minds of Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis? You get a musical
with an unhappy ending called “Urinetown: The Musical.” The concept: a twenty plus year drought has made a lack of water so extraordinary that private toilets are no longer a consideration and people must pay to use the public lavatories owned and operated by UGC, Urine Good Company who gauges the public for the privilege to… well, I am certain you can figure that out!
The musical comedy satirizes capitalism, the legal system, government, politics,
corporate greed and parodies the likes of “Threepenny Opera”, Les Miz and the entire
musical comedy genre. That Hollmann’s music and lyrics and Kotis’ book and lyrics
cram a lot of opinions and looking down their nose at the world around them in just two
hours is somewhat of an understatement.
The play is grimly narrated by Officer Lockstock who steps in and out of the action to
speak directly with the audience and move the exposition along. We learn from the start
that this is in not your typical musical, there is no happy ending and the actual
Urinetown will not be revealed to us until the second act so as to build up our
anticipation. Lockstock’s narrative is both supplemented and expanded by Little Sally, a
young street urchin who is not only quite precocious but apparently the only voice of
sanity in the production. (Ahh, out of the mouths of babes!)
The show centers not around our narrators, but rather Penelope Pennywise who runs the
decrepit Amenity #9 and Bobby Strong, the handsome every-man who decides that he is
going to let everyone in for free. This theme is spelled out for the audience – in case they
have not yet figured it out – in the beautifully stirring Act II number Run Freedom Run,
sung by Bobby and backed by the Poor People. Each song in the play parodies a famous
Broadway number, Pennywise’s It’s a Privilege to Pee is a play off Reciprocity from
“Chicago”, The Act I finale stems from “Les Miserables.” The Act II opener What is Urinetown is a blatant steal from “Fiddler on the Roof” and so it goes. Anyone familiar with musical theater in
general will have fun matching up the songs to the shows or numbers they parody.
The story needs the suspension of belief in order to fully enjoy it – what helps the audience the most in suspending said belief is this exceptionally well-put together production. Mac-Haydn vet, Gabe Belyeu’s Lockstock deadpan delivery and comic timing are perfection to watch. He is beautifully
complimented by Sarah Chiu as Little Sally. Janet Dickinson as Pennywise presents a
wide range of emotions from intimidation to fear and love and disdain. Kylan Ross as
Bobby takes his character from insecure, to love struck to leader as we watch him take control of his life and the situation around him. Nina Laing plays her part as Hope,
Bobby’s love interest and the daughter of the head of UGC’s owner Caldwell
B. Cladwell with impeccable comic timing. George Dvorsky returns to MacHaydn as the
self aggrandizing ego manical Cladwell. Dvorsky never disappoints and it is a pleasure
to welcome him back to the Chatham summer scene.
Director Trey Compton makes a superb MacHaydn directorial debut. He has assembled
a magical technical group to bring his vision to life. Scenic designer, Erin Kierman,
lighting design by Andrew Gmoser with costumes by Bethany Marx create a world that
truly imbues life to this production. Musical Director Eric Shorey and Choreographer
Elizabeth McGuire have come together to move this cast of nearly two dozen with the
skill and finesse of any Broadway production. Voices soar, ensemble numbers will grab
you, and the dancing will have you have on your feet in appreciation.
Not your typical musical, Urinetown is certainly a fun, interesting time in the theater.
Suspend your beliefs and focus on what is on the stage in front of you. It is a breath of
fresh air to watch a production that is somewhat out of the ordinary; a musical comedy
with no happy ending!
It is wonderful to watch Mac-Haydn to move from its comfort zone of musical theater
standards and go out on an artistic limb to present “Urinetown.” They have managed
after 50 plus seasons to encourage their audiences, to open their minds and hearts and
sample something new and different.
“Urinetown” is at Mac-Haydn Theater through July 17. All tickets are $45. for more information or to reserve tickets, go to : www.machaydntheatre.org or call 518-392-9292.