Urinetown: The Musical

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 8, 2016

Urinetown: The Musical

An edgy and inventive musical that made a triumphant segue from a 1999 workshop production to a Broadway opening in 2001, "Urinetown, The Musical" is not for audiences expecting typical musical-comedy glamour and glee. Imagine an absurdist Samuel Beckett play infused with zany social satire and dark thematic undercurrents, set to a jaunty original score by composer-lyricist Mark Hollmann and librettist-lyricist Greg Kotis. Earning three Tonys (book, score, and direction), the show boasts a timeless appeal, which is beautifully realized in Coeurage Theatre Company's irresistible and enthralling production.

Director Kari Hayter beautifully unifies the efforts of an impeccable cast of actor-singers. The effort is bouyed by Gregory Nabours' crackerjack music direction and Peter Shannon's vibrant accompaniment on keyboard. This production achieves an enthralling realization of the play's chilling social commentary and dark but uproarious humor.

Matt Scarpino's simple but atmospheric scenic design and Brandon Baruch's ambient lighting create the stark but eerie netherworld where the edgy narrative plays out. Emily Brown-Kucera's inspired costumes and props further enhance the enthralling off-kilter mood offering and edgy hint of German expressionism. Christopher M. Albrecht's choreography is witty and superbly integral to the proceedings.

The story is set in an unspecified city in an unspecified era, where a 20-year drought has led to a government dictum banning free public toilets. When a greedy corporation establishes a horrific monopoly, capitalizing on the citizens' desperate efforts to afford taking care of basic needs, the townspeople desperately struggle to survive. The terrifying regime banishes "lawbreaking" citizens to a mysterious place called Urinetown, where the exact nature of their fate remains secret.

A daring young man, Bobby Strong (Daniel Bellusci) resolves to thwart the totalitarian tactics of the local powers, following the imprisonment and likely murdering of his father, He falls in love with Hope (Ashley Kane), who is the daughter the dastardly and greedy corporate head Caldwell B. Cladwell (Gary Lamb) who leads the abuse of the citizens. Bobby and Hope embark on a quest to right the heinous wrongs.

The magic of this highly unusual Broadway musical is the way it so seamlessly blends zany, ironic humor and hummable tunes with genuine chills. It's ultimately a zany spoof, but resonates with undercurrents of our fears of ruthless and manipulative government regimes. Arriving in the midst of a hugely contentious and often ugly presidential election, and cynicism against one or both political parties/candidates, as well as international fears of terrorism, the production takes on an unexpected extra edge.

As well as the excellent performances of the aforementioned Bellusci, Lamb, and Kane, there is standout work from Nicole Monet as the inquisitive urchin Little Sally (who occasionally breaks the fourth wall to talk about the musical we are watching, mentioning such elements as "exposition"), Additional kudos are due to Ted Barton as the imposing and ruthless Officer Lockstock, a jaunty rapper. The performances of the ensemble members are superb, across the board.

This musical's title sounds a bit bizarre, perhaps raising as much trepidation as intrigue among potential viewers. But the work is an underappreciated classic, and the Coeurage company does itself proud with this memorable, finely crafted, and irresistible rendition,

"Urinetown, The Musical" runs through Dec. 3 at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 91601. For tickets and information, call 323-944-2165 or visit www.coeurage.org/urinetown