Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The musical is set in the not too distant future. Water has become so scarce that private bathrooms have been banned, doing your business in the street or even behind a tree faces severe consequences,; and a corporation has been put in charge of a series of pay toilets scattered across the land. These public pay toilet facilities are scarce, so the lines are usually very long. Our young hero Bobby Strong believes that everyone should have the right to pee for free and he takes on the corporation who oversees the pay toilets while also falling for the beautiful, but not exactly bright, Hope Caldwell. When Bobby discovers Hope is the daughter of the owner of the money-hungry corporation he fighting against, things don't look good for his cause or his romantic life. One of the policemen who oversees the public pay amenities is Officer Lockstock, who also serves as the narrator of this dark but very funny musical.
The book has twists and turns aplenty, and doesn't always go in the direction you think it will. Kotis also instills a playful parody of famous musicals and musical conventions into the proceedings while also shedding light on such serious topics as greed, capitalism, and even ecological disaster. Hollmann's music is ever changing, with brisk, upbeat numbers, charming romantic ballads, and a rousing gospel tune; and the lyrics are continually witty and colorful. It's an interesting show in that it is serious and dark yet also very comical, while also being charming and romantic yet completely satirical.
Director Andrea McFeely knows exactly how to guide her cast to deliver the satire, romance, and self-mocking tones of the piece, and they do so, for the most part, perfectly. As Bobby and Hope, Adam Bei and Lauren Scoville are simply adorable. Scoville's sweet nature and Bei's determination make them a realistic couple with a shared purpose. They both also bring strong vocals to their songs.
Harold LeBoyer is OK as Hope's father. I just wish he were a little more strong and forceful to project a sense of menace and darkness in the role. Tina Reynolds brings the right level of gravitas to the part of Penelope Pennywise, the woman who runs the poorest pay toilet and doesn't take crap from anyone. Her solo of "It's a Privilege to Pee" is well done. Andrew Lipman has the right sense of mockery, with a continual wink in his eye, in his narration as Officer Lockstock while Erin McFeely is perfectly precocious as Little Sally, the co-narrator who often questions why things are happening, both in Urinetown as well as in Urinetown the musical. While most of the ensemble work well there are a couple of actors who cross the line from satire into overacting and McFeely would be wise to pull them in line in order to not draw attention away from the intended focus of a few scenes.
Karli Giles Kemper's assured music direction delivers lovely vocals throughout, including some tight harmonies from the ensemble during the rousing "Run, Freedom, Run!." Shannon Perkins's choreography is excellent, from the syncopated stylized movement in "Cop Song" to the homages to Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins in "We're Not Sorry" and "Snuff the Girl." McFeely and Perkins work well together to make sure the tone of the piece never falters. Carrie and Danie Grief's costume designs are superb, with an appropriately gritty feel for the ensemble. The dark set design from Mike Smyth, while not fairly elaborate, still works well with the simple use of one rotating wall and a walkway with metal railings, combining with Ryan Terry's rich lighting design to evoke the dark and bleak future world of the show.
Urinetown is an extremely clever musical with an ever-changing plot, interesting characters, and some very catchy musical numbers. While it may not appeal to everyone, since it is dark and satirical, it is very creative and ultimately an extremely appealing show. Tuscany Theatre's production has very good leads and a strong supporting cast that, when combined with spot on direction and choreography, make for a very solid production.
Urinetown runs through April 30th, 2016, with performances at the Tuscany Theatre, 861 N Higley Rd, Suite 105, Gilbert, AZ 85234. Tickets and information on upcoming productions can be found at www.tuscanytheatrecompany.com.
Andrea McFeely: Director