There are some words that just go together. For example, ham and eggs, fish and chips, gin and tonic, etc and if you are a writer of theatrical pieces, then two words that have to go together are dystopian and future. I can’t think of a single show I’ve seen where the future looks bright. Still, it makes for good theatre and one of my favourite dystopian future shows is currently being put on by one of my favourite production companies. Welcome then to the SEDOS production of Urinetown: The Musical at the Bridewell Theatre.
In a dystopian future, water shortages have become so bad that in a bid to conserve the limited supply, all private toilets are forbidden by law and if you need to spend a penny, then you need to have a penny (or more) to give to the custodian of the official toilets run by UGC. The laws are rigorously enforced by the police, personified in Officer Lockstock (Luke Leahy) and his sidekick Officer Barrel (Stephen Kellett) who ensure that everyone keeps to their place. The oppressed masses huddle in line at the poorest, filthiest urinal in town, Public Amenity #9, which is run by Penelope Pennywise (Tal Hewitt) and her assistant Bobby Strong (Joe McWilliam). Penny makes no allowances for anyone, and if you haven’t got the cash, you aren’t getting into her amenity. Meanwhile in UGC headquarters, it’s a red letter day as CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell (Dan Saunders) is not only arranging a price hike for the toilets thanks to corrupt Senator Fipp (Sam Barnes) but is also welcoming his daughter Hope (Miranda Evans) back from university and into her new job of copying and faxing for UGC. Although from different ends of the social scale, Bobby and Hope run into each other one night. A chance meeting of two young people that opens their eyes to the world around them and changes them both forever.
The first thing to say here – TERRIBLE TITLE – but Urinetown: The musical is just great. Greg Kotis’ Book and Lyrics combined with Music by co-lyricist Mark Hollmann, have put together a story that pokes fun at virtually everything you can imagine from climate change to social class distinctions and everything in between. In addition, there are cheeky nods of recognition to some very famous musicals – see if you can spot the Wicked reference and the entire genre of musical theatre. This is achieved by having Officer Lockstock as a very cynical narrator explaining things to Little Sally (Ellie Jones) and thereby clueing the audience into what’s happening.
This device relies on the actor playing Lockstock establishing a good relationship with the audience – whilst also being one of the principal ‘baddies’ – from the moment the lights go down. Luckily, the casting of Luke Leahy in role achieves everything that is needed. He is both eminently likeable and also deplorable as he switches from kindly narrator to tool of oppression. The relationship between Luke and Ellie Jones as Little Sally also works really well and the two of them can bounce off each other nicely so the audience are kept up to date. Joe McWilliam makes an excellent ‘everyman’ hero as Bobby Strong, especially during the wonderful rabble-rousing number “Run Freedom Run” and when coupled with Miranda Evans as Hope, they form a really lovely couple who would definitely have very attractive and musical children. As the principal villain, Dan Saunders brings a nice touch of nastiness to Caldwell B. Cladwell which ensures you would never leave him in a room alone with your pet rabbit. As is the custom with SEDOS productions the cast, whether in a small or large part, are all first rate and work so well together whether singing, dancing – choreography by Kim Barker – or moving Andrew Laidlaw’s wonderfully versatile set around. Given the commitment of everyone involved, it must be great being a director at SEDOS and Yojiro Ichikawa has got a fantastic cast, great set and excellent lighting by Olly Levett all working together seamlessly to bring Urinetown: The Musical to life.
I saw the show on a freezing cold December night and when we left the theatre – me still humming ‘Run Freedom Run’ – my companion and I were both elevated by what we had just seen. My advice to you, get over the title, get a ticket, take a seat and sit back for the happiest couple of hours you are likely to have this side of the festive period. Urinetown: The Musical is back for a ‘wee’ while and should be enjoyed for the fantastic show it is.
Review by Terry Eastham
Urinetown is a hilarious send-up of greed, love, revolution (and musicals!), in a time when water is worth its weight in gold.
In the not so distant future, a terrible water shortage has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by Urine Good Company, a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity’s most basic needs.
With a brutal police force maintaining law and order, it’s not a place to get caught short! Risk it and you will be sent off to a place of no return – the infamous Urinetown. The city needs a revolution and every revolution needs a hero… however unlikely they may be.
HOPE CLADWELL | Miranda Evans
BOBBY STRONG | Joe McWilliam
PENELOPE PENNYWISE | Tal Hewitt
OFFICER LOCKSTOCK | Luke Leahy
LITTLE SALLY | Ellie Jones
CALDWELL B. CLADWELL | Dan Saunders
LITTLE BECKY TWO SHOES | Kate Gledhill
OLD MAN STRONG | Stephen Hewitt
MR MCQUEEN | Chris Watson
JOSEPHINE STRONG | Annabel Watson
SOUPY SUE | Sarah Berryman
OFFICER BARREL | Stephen Kellett
SENATOR FIPP | Sam Barnes
HOT BLADES HARRY | Alex Yelland
MRS MILLENIUM | Paula Mount
TINY TOM | Jack Brown
DR BILLEAUX | Kish Soni
Other characters will be played by: Tasila Banda, Amy Carmichael, Jessie Davidson, Adrian Hau, Josh Yeardley
DIRECTOR | Yojiro Ichikawa
MUSICAL DIRECTOR | Ryan Macaulay
CHOREOGRAPHER | Kim Barker
PRODUCERS | Lizzie Drapper and Ryan Macaulay
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR | Helena Bumpus
STAGE MANAGER | Shiri Stern
LIGHTING DESIGNER | Olly Levett
SET REASLISATION | Andrew Laidlaw
PUBLICITY DESIGN | Robert J. Stanex
URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL
Music and Lyrics by MARK HOLLMANN
Book and Lyrics by GREG KOTIS
Bride Lane Fleet Street
London, EC4Y 8EQ