Urinetown The Musical, which features lively music by Mark Hollmann, acerbic lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and a biting book by Kotis, is a terrific musical satire with a terrible title. Moreover, the current Raleigh Little Theatre production of this splendid spoof of Broadway message musicals about the evils of Capitalism is a big, big hit, thanks to snappy staging by RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, devilishly funny dance routines by choreographer Nancy Rich, crisp comic characterizations and vibrant vocals by the strongest RLT musical ensemble in many a year, and exuberant accompaniment by musical director Linda Velto (piano) and a peppy RLT pit band that kept the joint jumping. Together, the stellar cast, crew, and musicians had last Friday’s opening-night audience cheering wildly on virtually every number and rising as one at the end of the show to hurrah the cast and crew with a prolonged standing ovation.
Urinetown is set in a Gotham-like city in a bleak totalitarian future in which perennial water shortages have outlawed toilets in private homes and transformed all restrooms into government-regulated privately-run public amenities. By hook and (mostly) by crook, the Urine Good Company—a play on You’re in Good Company—and its tight-fisted founder Caldwell B. Cladwell (Scotty Cherryholmes) have taken over all the city’s restrooms and UGC charges the public an onerous toll for their use.
When Old Man Strong (Brent Wilson) finds himself lacking the price of admission to a public restroom and takes an unsanctioned leak against the wall outside the public amenity run by tough-as-nails Penelope Pennywise (Sandi Sullivan), she summons Officers Lockstock and Barrel (Rob Jenkins and Jaret Preston), who manhandle him and incite Strong’s heretofore docile son and Ms. Pennywise’s erstwhile young assistant Bobby Strong (Zach Morris) to rebel against a status quo that makes urination anywhere but in a government-sanctioned facility a capital crime.
Zach Morris, who is a rising senior at West Johnston High School, gives a star-making performance as Bobby; Sandi Sullivan adds a crusty characterization of Ms. Pennywise; Jaret Preston and especially Rob Jenkins, who also serves as the show’s smart-alecky narrator with tongue planted firmly in cheek, are hilarious as Barrel and Lockstock; and Scotty Cherryholmes is a veritable King of Mean as the avaricious Mr. Cladwell.
Katherine Anderson is charming as Cladwell’s beautiful but naive daughter Hope, who quickly falls in love with Bobby Strong, and Melissa Patterson is a pip as precocious street urchin Little Sally. Brent Wilson is amusing as Old Man Strong and, later, as Hot Blades Harry; Andrew Britt is good as Cladwell’s yes man Mr. McQueen; and Timothy Cherry is a pip as the cowardly and hopelessly corrupt Senator Fipp.
RLT diva Rose Martin heads a superlative supporting cast that also includes Kate Bowra, Curtis Brown, Lormarev Jones, Matthew Ryan Limerick, and Mark Schwab; and scenic and lighting designer Rick Young, costume designer Su Jung Lee, properties mistress Ruth Berry, and sound designers Al Wolfheimer and Rick LaBach help make Urinetown The Musical look and sound like the nasty negative utopia that the musical’s creators have imagined.
When Triangle Top 10 lists for 2007 come out, early in 2008, this exemplary RLT production of Urinetown is sure to occupy a prominent place on them. Don’t you dare miss it.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Urinetown The Musical Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 9-11, 16-18, and 23-25, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 12, 19, and 26, at 3 p.m. in RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $18 ($15 students and seniors 62+). 919/821-3111 or via etix @ the presenter's site. Note: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/performances/07-08/urinetown.html. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=10611.