Venice Little Theatre’s Urinetown the Musical may work some low comedy material, but it scores high.
By Kay Kipling
You probably don’t have to have seen Les Miserables, Evita or West Side Story to thoroughly enjoy Urinetown, the Musical, which manages to parody at least those three musicals during its production numbers. It might help, though, just as, in the case of this Venice Little Theatre production, it helps to have some memories of TV’s old Carol Burnett Show, upon which director Brad Wages has relied for inspiration in its staging.
It makes for a lot of fun, despite (or rather because of ) the seamy storyline of this hit play, set in a town where everyone has to pay to pee, thanks to an extended drought and a corrupt businessman who holds all the toilet power. The tone is set even before the show begins, thanks to Donna Buckalter’s set design evoking a subterranean world of pipes and tubes (with an extremely nasty-looking tiled bathroom wall center stage), enhanced by the sounds of frequent flushes and water dripping.
As narrator Officer Lockstock (Brian Rudolph) explains, however, this is not Urinetown, this is Urinetown, the Musical. No one really knows what Urinetown is like, because that’s the place where urination law violators are sent—and from which they never return. When assistant custodian Bobby Strong’s father is condemned to that end, Bobby (Craig Weiskerger) decides to become a hero and lead a revolution, aided, perhaps, by the well-meaning but clueless Hope Cladwell (Heather Kopp), daughter of that same amoral businessman (Don Walker) who controls everything.
Wages has assembled one of the strongest casts in recent memory for a VLT production, and they have an excellent comic rapport as well as the vocal abilities needed for a score that is by no means less demanding because of its parodic style. There’s really not a weak link here, but special attention must be paid to Rudolph, Kim Gardner-Kollar as Penelope Pennywise (who gets to channel comedienne Burnett here), Weiskerger and Kopp, and Ally Tufenkjian as street-smart urchin Little Sally. The ensemble described as “the poor” also delivers with great zest on numbers like Snuff That Girl and We’re Not Sorry, with confident, clever choreography (also by Wages) and musical direction by Michael Sebastian that is clear and lively.
By the end of the show, you may find yourself slightly exhausted by the over-the-top nature of each scene—or you may not. Certainly the cast’s energy never flags, and this visit to Urinetown (the Musical) is one worth making.
The show runs through April 20; call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com for tickets.