By: Katie WebbEditorial Editor
The sinister atmosphere of the play “Urinetown” was apparent the moment one stepped foot into the skillfully designed set of worn brick walls, broken windows and rusted metal pipes. The black box theater even seemed to emit a faint smell of sulfur to set the mood. There is no reason a musical with such a simple plot line and straightforward underlying message that absolute power corrupts and hope in the face of tyranny should be anything but dull and expected. Yet between the devilishly clever writing and the gutsy acting choices the show was brilliantly performed. The piece began with a tongue-in-cheek aside hinting at the type of humor that would prevail throughout the affair advising the audience members to go to the bathroom while they still had a chance. Officer Lockstock, played by Matt Engle, was the narrator who explained the rather dreary situation at hand. In this town the reservoir dried up 20 years ago. Now the townspeople, who haven’t got two pennies to rub together, wait in line several times a day for the unlikely chance to relieve themselves for a price. The show manages to balance pulling the audience’s heartstrings and make them howl with laughter. Falling to the streets in pain instead of daring to go behind a tree, the town’s people are in constant fear of being taken away to the not-so-mysterious “Urinetown” as punishment. Halfway through the first act Officer Lockstock screams with maniacal pleasure, to a character named Little Sally, that Urinetown is code for getting knocked off, literally knocked off of a roof. Little Sally is played by Anna Holmes, and the rapport between Holmes and Engle is comical entertainment at its finest. Whether the ensemble is sashaying across the stage or in the midst of a heated revolt against the evil dictatorship that is the plumbing company, the duo are off chatting about the play’s central conceit. To say they broke the fourth wall would be unnecessary, because it scarcely existed. The charm of the play was the actors coyly commenting on how though they were in the middle of a musical it was going to end abysmally for them all. Alan Stentiford played Cladwell, the delightfully manipulative businessman taxing the public toilets and wreaking havoc over the public sector. Cladwell, quite the opposite of the average villain, went from pocking the mayor on the nose to end an argument with him to commenting on how he sent his daughter, Hope, to the most expensive school in the world; at this point he paused to look at the audience, eliciting knowing dark chuckles. At one point show-stealing eccentric Little Sally asked Officer Lockstock why they weren’t addressing the issue of hydraulics, which he brushed off as being too overwhelming an idea for the audience to handle. Though the writing was not to be outdone the dancing and singing were unforgettable as well. The duets between star-crossed lovers, innocent if not endearingly idiotic Hope Cadwell, played by Rita McCann, and heroic revolt leader Bobby Strong, played by James Crichton, were charming and heartfelt. The ensemble harmonized beautifully, adding an unexpected and humorous soulful element to one of the songs. Halfway through running around, havoc-stricken Crichton took the place of a conductor and the ensemble stood as a choir channeling a rich southern gospel element. Of course, the musical numbers had perfectly choreographed moves to go along with the talented vocals, and each of the actors added their own flair to the dances. “Urinetown” will be performed again this weekend in the New Academic Building, and it’s sure to deliver a sensational two hours for all who are wise enough to attend.