The Patriot Ledger
May 13, 2009
Catchy Tunes, Cast Propel "Urinetown"
Imagine a time when the water supply is so low that private bathrooms no longer exist. Pay-as-you-go public toilets are the rule, and public urination is a capital offense.
Now overlay that premise with several catchy tunes and an abundance of winking at the audience, and you’ve got "Urinetown: The Musical." Curtain Call Theatre provided a lively, entertaining production of this offbeat Tony-award winner at last Friday’s opening night.
The glue holding the show together is Officer Lockstock, a cop who serves as judge, jury, executioner, and, most notably, narrator. Bill McColgan, an imposing figure with a big voice, brings Lockstock to life, deftly switching from one side of the proscenium to the other, while bringing the audience along for the ride. His star turn as a gangsta rapper in the energetic "Cop Song" is an early highlight of the performance.
As Penelope Pennywise, Sharon Petti shows an impressive singing range, but brings to mind Vicki Lawrence as Carol Burnett, with too much mugging at the audience. The young lovers Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell, sung by Joshua Bishoff and Andrea Femino, acted their comic-book, love-at-first-sight story with a fresh sense of idealism.
Femino was especially delightful as the ditzy ingénue, and her classically trained voice shows an impressive range.
Susie Lawler was a perfect Little Sally, disappearing into her character and keeping the action flowing.
As Caldwell B. Cladwell, the corporate tycoon who controls the public amenities, K. Lance Wesley is elegant and smarmy, although his singing and sense of ensemble could have been stronger. Liz Fenstermaker, a hilariously pregnant Little Becky Two Shoes, is a riot as a bloodthirsty kidnapper bent on revenge. Her energetic dancing in "Snuff the Girl" - a takeoff on "Cool" from "West Side Story" - was enough to make one wonder if there would be a special delivery onstage.
The orchestra, which is tucked into a back corner of the minimal, functional set, generally played well, with some early intonation problems and the challenge of maintaining ensemble while behind the actors.
Conductor Matthew Stern had his chance in the spotlight with a gospel-inspired "Run Freedom Run," parodying an overwrought choir director with flair.
Direction by Martha Sawyer and choreography by Pamela Martin are just right for the intimate space, and capture the tongue-in-cheek flavor of the show.
Heavy themes like class warfare and ecological disaster aren’t easy to pull off in a musical, but Sawyer’s light touch deftly brought out the best in the energetic, committed cast.