From the moment the curtain raised, there was a first class execution of performance skills from all cast members, which was pleasing to see and I am sure director Michael Howcroft will be extremely proud of the young people and their talents.
The musical theatre degree course at Laban has only been running for a handful of years, but that doesn’t show at all in this weird, satirical, yet polished production of Urinetown.
However, not knowing the musical Urinetown by playwright Greg Kotis, which first premiered on Broadway in 2001. I entered Stratford Circus Arts Centre, with eyes wide open.
The show itself, the material, (mainly the score) is hugely vast in style moving from jazz, swing, soul, and so on to create a mash-up that for me, just didn’t quite work and although the audience, made up of parents of students and who I assumed were Trinity Laban students, were very (and sometimes overly) reactive and seemed to enjoy being in Urinetown.
On a side note, the audience were whispering, talking and at one point I saw a mobile phone being used. There were no ushers to be seen in the auditorium throughout the performance which is curious given that theatre etiquette is in the news regularly now. This is not a reflection on the musical but was hugely distracting.
The melodramatic acting style was in keeping with the outrageous storylines and songs such as ‘Cop Song’, ‘Mr. Caldwell’, and Act 1 Finale ‘Don’t be a Bunny’. ‘Cop Song’ was reminiscent of the musical ‘Spamalot’ – another musical I sadly didn’t gel with.
If the idea of this musical is to make fun and parody other musicals, then it sadly didn’t. Perhaps this sits with the directorial choices or possibly it just wasn’t clear enough within the libretto. This led to a very confusing, conflicting set of ideas that was presented.
With regard to the students, they really must pride themselves with their vocals, which were strong from all, with stand-out vocal performances from Molly Osborne as ‘Hope’ a star in the making and ‘Little Sally’ played by Danielle Whittaker who’s characterisation was fantastic.
Musical Director, Verity Quade has clearly worked hard in honing the vocals, harmonies and sound of both the cast and the band. The band, made up of 5 members (including Quade) was on stage at all times, I just wish I could have seen more of them as a curtain was pulled around them for most of the show. I understand this could have been distracting as an audience member but could have been made a much larger part of the set, seeing how they are on stage for the whole performance.
One must not forget, whilst writing, that this is a 2nd-year musical theatre public performance, which truly showcased the hard work, dedication, skills, techniques, and abilities of the students. I am sure over the course of the next year the students will grow and improve massively, ready for the hugely competitive world of musical theatre.
I am really pleased that Trinity Laban are using public platforms such as Stratford Circus to raise the profile of the musical theatre side of the institution and they are doing a superb job at nurturing the talent of the future. Perhaps next time, choose a different musical.
Review by Benjamin Wainwright
What happens when a twenty-year drought makes public hygiene a major issue? Urinetown received rave reviews in the West End in 2014, and this summer, Trinity Laban Musical Theatre second year students bring it back to the stage. A brilliant satire, Director Michael Howcroft and Musical Director Verity Quade bring this ‘anti-musical’ to life, which is fast, funny and full of great songs.
Thurs 15 June – Sat 17 June 2017
Stratford Circus Arts Centre, E15 1BX
Made In Dagenham
Fri 23 June – Sun 25 June 2017
Stratford Circus Arts Centre, E15 1BX