IU Theatre: Urinetown

"Urinetown the Musical" is at the IU Theatre in potent production with a cast that sings, dances and acts well. The cast shows conviction and energy that simply bubbles over.

The simple plot revolves around an ecological disaster, a twenty year drought. Logically, evil capitalists would be hoarding and selling scarce water, but it’s "Urinetown…’s premise that instead they’ve taken control of all the public toilets where the citizens must do their private business. "Urinetown…" is a musical that mocks other musicals, shows like "Les Mis…", "Hair", "Rent" and even "West Side Story." It’s even handed in its mockery and even mocks itself.

Danielle Howard’s direction is sure. George Pinney’s choreography is full of creative parody including a fine take off on Jerome Robbins’ work in "West Side Story." Angie Burkhardt’s costumes range nicely from the rags of the poor through the nice party dress of the heroine, the ripped t-shirt of the hero and the gleaming white suits of the villains of big business. Music director John Berst has the chorus singing with power and variety and his own four piece ensemble filling the musical chores nicely. The sound design by Wayne Jackson lets the audience hear every syllable.

There are stars in "Urinetown…"in a large cast that all shows strength. Kevin Anderson was the dryly imposing Officer Lockstock. Joanne Dubach was outstanding as the childish Little Sally. Toilet attendant Rachel Sickmeir had a hit in her mock "Les Mis’" aria. Jonathan Davidson was smoothly oily and stunningly suited as the tycoon Caldwell B. Cladwell. Anna Malone was his starry eyed daughter Hope. The hero, Bobby Strong, –a sort of "McGiver" figure– was potently presented by Eric Van Tielen.

In a nicely Brechtian spirit "Urinetown the Musical" revels in the luxurious excess of its one joke simplicity and delights in the irony of its irony. Considering the subject matter, I hesitate to use the term "frothy," but "frothy" it is. Frankly, though there was still plenty to enjoy, about halfway through the second act, I’d had enough. However the audience in the nearly packed theatre seemed to have an unabated appetite and even seemed to enjoy the cast’s extended curtain call.

"Urinetown, the Musical" plays each evening this week in IU’s Wells Metz Theatre. You can find an interview with director Danielle Howard and actor Eric Van Tielen on our Arts Interviews page .

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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