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REVIEW: Urinetown The Musical

Review by Markus Hamence – Performance date: Saturday 11 May 2024, Stirling Community Theatre, Stirling, South Australia

Imagine a world where water is so scarce that the mere act of peeing is regulated, and private toilets are but a distant memory. This is the brilliantly bizarre premise of ‘Urinetown: The Musical‘, a satirical show that might make you laugh until you… well, need to use the restroom (and you feel very guilty and/or privileged doing so)! I went in with no knowledge of the show and I’m kinda glad that was the case, it was like going on an amusement ride for the very first time – it was a wild adventure with plenty of thrills. Brace yourself for the Hills Musical Company (HMC) brand new 2024 production offering – Let’s discuss…

The Plot That Flushes Convention Down the Toilet

Director Ruby Pinkerton brings to life, with her obvious honed talents this acclaimed musical that is worldly popular. ‘Urinetown’ takes us to a dystopian city where a 20-year drought has made water painfully scarce. The government, in cahoots with a malevolent corporation, charges people to use the restroom. Failure to comply with these pay-per-pee laws results in a trip to Urinetown – though no one really knows what that entails since no one ever returns.

The story kicks off with Bobby Strong, a charismatic assistant custodian at the poorest, filthiest public toilet in town. Bobby becomes an unlikely hero as he leads a ragtag group of misfits in a rebellion against the oppressive urination fees. The plot thickens with twists, turns, and a bit of romance, making ‘Urinetown’ a wild ride from start to finish.

A Cast That Delivers

As per this company’s last production, ‘Carrie The Musical’, the cast are well and carefully selected. As always, the success of a show as cheeky and eccentric as ‘Urinetown’ hinges on its cast, and man, do they deliver! The characters are larger than life, from the villainous Caldwell B. Cladwell (played menacingly good by Josh Barkley) to the earnest and hopeful Hope Cladwell (Air-headed perfection by Megan Davidson), his daughter who captures Bobby’s heart. The delightful to watch and VERY engaging Andrew Crispe plays the narrator of the musical in the form of Officer Lockstock and doesn’t skip a beat (Well he does actually skip however). He plays mostly alongside Katy Driver’s ‘Little Sally’ who is a frolicking and confident joy to experience. Sarah Hamilton always shines in her roles and ‘Penelope Pennywise’ is no exception if not rising her to greater stardom – Her voice comes to life and rises to occasion in an early number in the show, ‘It’s A Privilege To Pee’. BUT, making his Hills Musical Company debt is the leading man Liam Phillips as Bobby Strong. Liam holds his own and solid credentials notched into his belt. He appears to have worked with this troupe for many years as the chemistry is tangible on stage. Hopefully this is just the start of the productions he is involved in with this tremendous creative group of talent. ALL the actors bring a remarkable energy to the stage, marrying slapstick comedy with moments of genuine emotion. Oh, and special nod and focus to the fun, well-timed and professionally slick dance number, meticulously choreographed by the darling Jemma Allen. Bravo to all.

Music and Lyrics That Stick

The musical score of ‘Urinetown’ is a mishmash of styles, ranging from gospel to jazz format to the obligatory Broadway power ballads. The lyrics are clever, packed with puns and social commentary that keeps the audience thinking while they’re chuckling. Standout numbers like the afore mentioned ‘It’s a Privilege to Pee’ and ‘Run, Freedom, Run!’ are both hilarious and thought-provoking, showcasing the show’s knack for balancing humour with a message.

The Musical Directors Kristin and Ben Stefanoff (The Dynamic Duo) know their stuff and have musical chops that are sharp and focussed and have whipped up this production into an audible heaven (Side note: acoustically Stirling Community Theatre is very good). Ben takes on his prideful spot as the Conductor and skilfully plays the keys all the while leading the other four members of the accomplished band below in the pit. The music they create is yet another of the lead characters.

A Set That’s Delightfully Dingy

The set design deserves a nod for its ingenuity and functionality. It transports the audience to a grimy, oppressive cityscape that feels as cramped and claustrophobic as the lives of the characters. The use of space and levels creates a dynamic visual that complements the storytelling beautifully. Alongside this, it is visually complimented by an outstanding wardrobe which is constantly changing and evolving from grungy to crisp and back again in the turning of scene.

Final Thoughts

‘Urinetown’ is not your typical musical. It’s weird, VERY, it’s wild, and it’s absolutely wonderful. With its sharp satire, memorable music, and a story that’s both entertaining and eerie in its relevance (think environmental crisis and corrupt corporations), it offers a theatrical experience that’s refreshingly original. This show proves that musicals can be both uproarious and thought-provoking. If you’re in the mood for something different, something that challenges the norms of musical theatre while providing a bucket-load of entertainment, ‘Urinetown’ by HMC is definitely worth your time.

How many stars?… FIVE yellowy (not smelly), glistening STARS ***** 🙂

Urinetown The Musical
10-25 May 2024
Stirling Community Theatre

Markus Hamence with Musical Director and Composer, Ben Stefanoff
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