Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Near West Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

Also see David's review of Jersey Boys and Mark's reviews of Ruthless! and The Bloodless Jungle

Zoe Douglas and Cole Tarantowski
Photo Courtesy of Near West Theatre
Urinetown. The very name evokes an uncomfortable sensation, yet it is a Tony Award winning musical (Best Book, Best Score, and Best Direction of a Musical) that ran for 990 performances from 2001-2004.

This satirical musical comedy (book and lyrics by Greg Kotis; and lyrics by Mark Hollmann) pokes fun at a variety of hallowed institutions including the legal system, capitalism, social responsibility (or lack of), populism, home grown bureaucracy, corporate control, and local politics. The show also spoofs several Broadway shows, and musical theatre itself.

Using the same formula that has been their success for years, Near West Theatre has taken a cast of over forty 9-15 year olds (some of whom have never been on stage before) and in ten weeks have them performing a major Broadway musical. The entire cast is made up of volunteers.

The show begins with Officer Lockstock and Little Sally breaking the fourth wall while debating the title and soon to be staged subject matter. They surmise that the bad title combined with the bad subject matter will "kill the show," but they lay out the story for the audience.

A twenty-year drought has caused a desperate water shortage and private toilets are outlawed. It is decreed that all bathroom activities be done at the public toilets where the money collected goes to the mega-corporation "Urine Good Company." Anyone not using the public facilities is arrested and sent to a place called "Urinetown," from which no one ever returns.

At Public Amenity #9, run by Penelope Pennywise and her assistant Bobby Strong, a disturbance breaks out when Bobby's father refuses to pay and urinates on the wall of the facility. He is arrested and carried off to Urinetown. At the corporate office of the UGC, CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell discusses the newest fee hike with Senator Fipp as Caldwell's daughter Hope arrives. Fresh from college, Hope is starting at UGC as a fax/copy girl. Later that day she goes slumming and meets Bobby. The two realize that they want to make changes and help the people, and soon, a full blown revolution is at hand with Bobby in the lead.

Near West Theatre has taken a show that, while wildly popular, is written in what some might consider rather bad taste. Nonetheless, it is performed with a high degree of professionalism in spite of the young age of the cast. As with even the best local theaters, there are some errors in dialog delivery, but the cast makes up for this with their unbridled enthusiasm, especially during the large ensemble numbers. The amazing set, costumes, ensemble work, lighting, and orchestra make for an evening of good entertainment.

Near West Theatre's Urinetown runs through September 254th, 2016, at 6702 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. General Admission ticket prices are $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under. The theater also offers Star Seat Tickets for $25 that allows patrons to reserve their seats in the row of their choice. Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at (216) 961-6931 during regular office hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday or at

The cast (in alphabetical order) consists of Felix Albino (Hot Blades Harry), Morgan Alten, Andy Antos, Justice Artis, Delia Brennan (Penelope Pennywise), Kylie Colvin, Kierstan Conway (Josephine "Ma" Strong), Josh Davis (Officer Barrel), Adelisa DeJesus, Zoe Douglas (Hope Cladwell), Rylie Elswick (Joseph "Old Man" Strong), Giles Foster, Drew Gibson (Tiny Tom), Dylan Grosh-Hoy (Officer Lockstock), Julia Gutia, Emma Gyorki, Zoe Hess, Hannah Horton, Corinne Howery, CJ Jorgensen (Mr. McQueen), Nate Jorgensen (Caldwell B. Cladwell), Bryen Kilbane, Ste-vee Lang, Jack Lange, Samantha Manoloff, Chloe Mihelich, Joshua Mink, Elden Mortensen, Evan Mortensen, Ella Nosse, Isabella Novosel, Sophie O'Leary (Little Sally), Finn O'Malia, Diamond Rhodes, Alex Schwartz, Lola Seoane, Ian Stewart (Senator Fipp), Cole Tarantowski (Bobby Strong), Tannayia Thomas (Soupy Sue), Dashiell Tidrick, Morgan Williams, and Ally Yellets (Little Becky Two Shoes).

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