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Urinetown Review - A Delightfully Dark Musical Comedy

By Jessie Bond

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Ariana Burk (Little Sally), Henry McGinniss (Bobby), Sara Reinecke (Soupy Sue) and ensemble

 

What happens when people are forced to pay to pee? That's the central conceit of Urinetown, a musical that parodies both corporate greed and the musical theatre genre itself. With a tongue-in-cheek attitude and general disregard for theatrical conventions like the fourth wall, Urinetown tells a story that is fun and funny if not exceptionally insightful. BoHo Theatre presents this dark satire with smart direction and strong acting work.

 

Garrett Lutz (Hot Blades Harry)

 

The story takes place in a town where water is in scarce supply and citizens are forced to scrape together coins to pay the fee to use public restrooms, the only available option for relieving oneself under draconian public urination laws. When the restroom fees are raised, assistant janitor Bobby Strong decides that they will not take it any longer and leads the citizens in a revolt for the right to pee for free.

 

Donterrio Johnson (Cladwell), Scott Danielson (Lockstock), Courtney Mack (Hope), Henry McGinniss (Bobby) and ensemble

 

The quality of satire in the script is only so-so. The idea that companies care more for filling their own pockets than the basic human needs of others is nothing new, and Urinetown doesn't really add much to the criticism of this behavior except for a small twist involving the environmental sustainability of free peeing in this drought-filled universe. And stories of revolution against corrupt and insensitive leaders were much more entertaining before they began to feel like contemporary American reality.

 

Ariana Burks (Little Sally)

 

Still, Urinetown is a funny show. The most enjoyable performance in the production is that of Ariana Burks as Little Sally; Burks mixes innocent sincerity with a dry sense of humor to create a sardonically clever, but still believably childlike, little girl. Molly Kral is also spectacular as fee enforcer Mrs. Pennywise, who shares characteristics with Sweeney Todd's Mrs. Lovett. Kral has a killer belt and a strong set of acting chops, and it's easy to enjoy her stage time.

 

Molly Kral (Penelope Pennywise)

 

Henry McGinniss as Bobby Strong and Courtney Mack as idealistic heroine Hope Cladwell both commit wholeheartedly to their characters' silly mannerisms and sincere belief in the triumph of good over evil, making the duo an enjoyable comedic presence.

 

Courtney Mack (Hope) and Henry McGinniss (Bobby)

 

Director Stephen Schellhardt and choreographer Aubrey Adams make excellent use of an intimate space at Stage 773. Fitting a cast of fourteen, as well as a five-piece orchestra, into a space that size and still managing to give the show the feel of a Broadway-style production is no mean feat. The blocking and choreography are impressive, and the limited space does not limit the creativity of either Schellhardt or Adams. Instead, the size of the space creates an intimacy and immediacy that suits the content of the show.

 

The ensemble of BoHo Theatre's Urinetown

 

The production suffers from sound issues; a few mic hiccups produced unfortunate moments of feedback, and at times the balance of sound is off such that it's impossible to hear the performers over the pit; I lost most of the lyrics to Snuff That Girl, for example. The orchestra, however, conducted by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and consisting of a piano, string bass, drums, a reed player and a trombone/euphonium, does a spectacular job, with strong playing that fills the space and creates a grandiose feel to the orchestrations in spite of the small size of the ensemble.

 

Courtney Mack (Hope) and Henry McGinniss (Bobby) with ensemble

 

Costumes by Elizabeth Wislar add greatly to the storytelling; the colorfully dirty and tattered costumes of the poor are a particular highlight, as well as the glistening cream dress of the wealthy Hope. Scenic design by Tony Churchill also does an excellent job of creating environment and atmosphere, even in a small space.

 

Courtney Mack (Hope) and Henry McGinniss (Bobby)

 

Urinetown is a darkly funny, metatheatrical piece of musical theatre, and BoHo Theatre presents it well.

 

Henry McGinniss (Bobby) and Scott Danielson (Officer Lockstock)

 

Ticket Information

Dates: February 12 – March 26, 2017

Times: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

Please note: the Sunday February 12th performance is at 6:00 pm.

Tickets: $33 Thursday and Fridays, $35 Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are available online at the BoHo Theatre website, in person at the Stage 773 box office, or by phone at (773) 327-5252.

 

All photos by Katie Long.

Published on Feb 12, 2017

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