How does a town survive a twenty-year drought? In the case of the town featured in “Urinetown: The Musical,” onstage now through Theatre Raleigh and Hot Summer Nights, the answer is to tax urination. The production introduces viewers to a small town in which the poor are forced to wait in long lines for filthy public toilets and to pay ever-increasing fees for the “privilege to pee.” Presented as a clever show-within-a-show, the musical follows young Bobby Strong (Brennan Caldwell) as he stages an uprising against the tax-wielding mega-corporation, Urine Good Company, run by the rich and greedy Caldwell B. Cladwell (Raymond Sage), and as he falls in love with Mr. Caldwell’s big-hearted (and big-chested!) daughter, Hope (Cameron Caudill).
This satirical romp features catchy and incredibly clever songs, made even more enjoyable by Lauren Kennedy’s amusing choreography. Kennedy is unafraid to use the entire stage for the full-scale song-and-dance numbers and pulls out all the stops with kitschy touches, including a searching flashlight dance for “Cop Song,” a number focused on finding those who dare to pee for free, and some pretty adorable bunny-hopping moves for the show’s celebrated “Don’t Be the Bunny” number.
Denise Schumaker’s costumes also play a large role in bringing the production to life. Drab clothing and dirty faces show the desolation of the poor townspeople, but bright yellows and rich blacks effectively turn the same actors into their alternate characters— busy-bee corporation workers— and showcase the stark contrast between the desperate side of the town and the affluent corporate world.
And, of course, “Urinetown: The Musical,” wouldn’t be complete without the right cast. Caldwell’s Bobby Strong is hopeful, sweet, and just a tad bit stupid—in other words, perfectly endearing. And few could bring more unique beauty or drier, more comedic wit to the sweet, naïve Hope than Caudill. Also of note is Rachael Moser’s “Little Sally;” Little Sally serves as the show’s precocious quasi-narrator, and Moser plays the role with wide-eyed innocence belied by the subtle hint of a smirk. David Hess manages to make officious Officer Lockstock, the show’s main narrator, likeable in spite of the character’s antagonism, and Jade Arnold is wonderfully bumbling and slimy as Senator Flipp. There are also standouts among the townspeople, including Pauline Cobrda’s emotional Josephine Strong; Maigan Kennedy’s ever-pregnant Little Becky Two Shoes; and, of course, strong-faced and strong-voiced Courtney Balan as the public toilet-overseer, Penelope Pennywise.
Effectively directed by Richard Roland, “Urinetown: The Musical” is an us-against-them, rip-roaringly funny comedy with serious sustainability criticisms built in. Good for a laugh, a serious post-show conversation, or both, “Urinetown” is definitely worth a watch.
Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh presents URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. Aug. 8 and 9, 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 10, and 3 p.m. Aug. 11 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $33.55-42.20 (including fees).
BOX OFFICE: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/865156.
Hot Summer Nights: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/.
Theatre Raleigh: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/.
Urinetown: The Musical (2001 Off-Broadway and 2001 Broadway musical): http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000280 (Music Theatre International) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urinetown (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://mtiblog.mtishows.com/urinetown-the-musical/ (Music Theatre International).
Mark Hollmann (music and lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Hollmann (Wikipedia).
Greg Kotis (book and lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Kotis (Wikipedia).
Richard Roland (director): http://www.richardroland.com/ (official website), http://richardroland.blogspot.com/ (his blog), and https://www.facebook.com/richard.roland (his Facebook page).