There have been many interesting concepts for musicals over the history of the art form. For the most part, shows that push the boundaries of the musical theater format stick to Off-Off-Broadway theaters or Fringe festivals. But sometimes one of these groundbreaking musicals makes it to the mainstream. Such is the case with URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL, which went from the New York Fringe Festival to an Off-Broadway production on Broadway, earning ten Tony nominations (and three wins) in 2002. And producing URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL as just its fourth production since moving to Orlando from New York, non-profit community theater company Little Radical Theatrics presented an audience-pleasing production at the Mandell Studio Theater in Orlando Shakes that featured a fun and creative concept, a dedicated and energetic ensemble (along with some solid performances), for a unique yet fun evening at the theater.
If you’ve never heard of URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL, you’re probably scratching your head wondering what kind of title is that for a musical? Don’t worry – it’s a very common reaction (I remember thinking the same thing during the 2002 Tony Awards performance). But URINETOWN is a satirical musical set in the not-too-distant future when the world has experienced a twenty-year drought so severe it has made it necessary to limit toilet use to paid amenities, all controlled by a megacorporation, “Urine Good Company” or UGC for short. Like so many things before it, it creates a disparity between rich and poor, leading to long queues to use less than tasty facilities. Add to that strict laws that forbid re-enactment in public and you have a recipe for social disparity and conflict (and comedy?). The musical is narrated by Officer Lockstock (Travis Eaton) who regularly breaks the fourth wall and explains the concept to the audience, mostly educating Little Sally (Beatriz Antunez) on the plot. Lockstock is also one of the play’s antagonists as the main law enforcer, taking law-breaking offenders to “Urinetown” – a metaphor that is revealed in Act II, but is about as bad. than you might imagine. Young Bobby Strong (Jacob Coldiron) works in one of the public facilities the poorest citizens can afford (thus the least desirable) run with an iron fist by Penelope Pennywise (Stephanie Viegas). He soon meets (and falls in love) with the wide-eyed and optimistic young Hope Cladwell (Molly Jarvis), not realizing that her father, Caldwell B. Cladwell (Derek Hayden) is the CEO of UGC and the main villain of the story. As is often the case, the people are fed up with oppressive laws and fees and stage a revolt, led by Bobby and a ragtag group of “poor people” leading to an unexpected (for a musical) ending filled with dark commentary. on the state of the world.
Greg Kotis’ book for URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL is filled with musical theater tropes from shows such as LES MISERABLES and THE CRADLE WILL ROCK and features stylized dialogue that is so dramatic it becomes comedic in a 21st century context. The music and lyrics by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis are melodious and fun, a contrast to the subject matter they cover (and the plot of the musical). In the production of Little Radical Theatrics, director Carly Clark took the concept of Broadway to another level by featuring nods to musical theater throughout the production – in Travis Eaton’s basic yet functional stage design with modified theater show cards (for shows like “Avenue P” and “Mary Peepins”) and Stephanie Viegas costumes that represent many musicals from the past, making this a fun scavenger hunt for movie nerds theater like me to determine what show each character represents. Even Sean Hancock’s choreography nods to shows of the past, bringing smiles and laughs to the audience. Rounding out the designs, Nishaa Johnson has a powerful band to work with, vocally, which comes through particularly well in the acapella section of “Run Freedom, Run.”
The cast of URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL by Little Radical Theatrics was so much fun to watch on stage. Their energy was contagious and they delivered the group numbers very well. In fact, they could have benefited from a bigger step, especially in the full production numbers. Standout personalities include Jacob Coldiron as Bobby and Molly Jarvis as Hope, both delivering solid performances and showing off great vocals in their respective songs. Travis Eaton gave a solid performance as the narrator, Officer Lockstock – but could have been a bit more menacing in the role. As a partner, Officer Barrel, Pat Clark delivers solid physical comedy and a perfect movie for Officer Lockstock. Derek Hayden is delightfully evil and oppressive as Mr. Cladwell, and Stephanie Viegas chews up the scenery (in a very Norma Desmond-esque way) as Mrs. Pennywise. Finally, as the naive but hilarious Little Sally, Beatriz Antunez (channeling an unlucky Orphan Annie) was fantastic.
As this was my first time attending a Little Radical Theatrics production, I was pleased with the company’s creativity and energy for URINETOWN and look forward to the company’s future productions. As a strong supporter and supporter of community theatre, it’s always a special pleasure to see the result of hundreds of hours of work by dozens of passionate, creative and talented people – and LRC’s URINETOWN was no exception. .
For more information on Little Radical Theatrics, visit https://www.littleradicaltheatricsinc.com/
Photos provided by Little Radical Theatrics and featuring the cast of URINETOWN