Theater

Review: 'Urinetown' a satirical joy

The Rebel Poor in "Urinetown"
The Rebel Poor in "Urinetown"

All right...now that the title has brought your attention here, let me state the comedy-musical "Urinetown" is a satirical look at capitalism, bureaucracy, and social irresponsibility while parodying musicals such as Les Miserables, The Three Penny Opera, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story.

The playwright Greg Kotis got the idea for "Urinetown" while traveling in Europe as a student continually encountering pay toilets. No production companies were interested in the musical until the Chicago Experimental Group NeoFuturists agreed to produce "Urinetown" as part of its 1999-2000 season. Delayed by the tragedy of 9/11, it transferred to Broadway in September 2001 where it collected Tony, Drama Desk, Lucille Little, and Outer Critics Drama League Awards and ran for three years. 

Directed by three term and retiring PM&L President Donna Abear, and creatively choreographed by Colleen Walker, this "Urinetown" is a clever chuckle with a message and resists easy description. A dynamite, savvy ensemble of 21 gives stunning vocality to Mark Hollman’s 17 musical numbers, thanks to vocal director Kenzie Conner; audience favorite numbers were “Mr. Caldwell”, “Cop Song”, and “Run Freedom Run”, a show-stopping Gospel rendition sung upliftingly by Julian Wilkerson (hero Bobby Strong) and the ensemble.

"Urinetown" concerns a revolution in a city plagued by a 20-year drought; private toilets have been outlawed and public ones-you guessed it-are controlled by a corrupt mega corporation, Urine Good Company (UGC). Narrated in Brechtian style by Officer Lockstock (a brillliant, vocally gifted Justin Fiorelli) and Little Sally (a vibrantly energetic Crystal Lake 8th grader Raina Thiegs), we quickly learn that any abuser of the Health and Safety rules is sent to a penal colony known as "Urinetown," never to return.

As previously stated, the supportive ensemble is ravishing with stunning voices, but there are some strong character standouts: Chris Hughes (Officer Barrel), Darius Russellle (Mr. McQueen), and Mark Bartlett (Old Man Stong/Hot Blades Harry). There is exhilarating work done by leads Matthey J. Leptich (Caldwell B. Cladwell), Justin Fiorelli (Officer Lockstock), Jessica Augustine (tongue in cheek hilarious Hope Cladwell), and Raina Thiegs (the precocious Little Sally).

The PM&L Opening Night production was not without flaws, particularly with lighting and sound issues and unfocused musical pauses. Be advised there is no live orchestra; the music is professionally pre-recorded, disconcerting to some but budget wise perhaps. However, the troupe’s costumes designed by Lorrie Ferguson are perfection (loved Mr. Cladwell’s tie!) and Mark Audrain’s set design is attractively appropriate for the intimate PM&L stage.

"Urinetown" stresses some fairly universal themes: hope for tomorrow, the uncertainty of our future, and the age old rich vs. poor while under the guise of the beloved classic boy meets girl/root for the underdog plot. Music creator Mark Hollmann once commented “No one has the answer. "Urinetown" merely raises the question.” And the question of whether or not you should attend PM&L’s zesty production is an easy answer: definitely!

• Regina Belt-Daniels happily continues to be a working actress and director. She is a retired District 47 Special Educator, a retired Raue Center for the Arts Board member, and currently services on the boards of RCLPC and It’s Showtime. She is also a 2018 Woman of Distinction.. 

URINETOWN

Through Nov. 25

9 p.m. Friday, Saturday

2:30 p.m. Sundays

PG 13 (no bad language, no sexual reference)

Two acts with one 15 minute intermission 

PM&L THEATER

877 N. Main St. Antioch

TICKETS:$15-18

Pmltheatre.com

847-395-3055

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