Carousel’s ‘Urinetown’ is must see
By David Ritchey
SOUTH AKRON — Carousel Dinner Theatre has thrown open another door with its current production of “Urinetown: The Musical!”
This is a production area residents will not want to miss. The title and the ads are misleading, but the script and the production are first rate. Some people seated near me when I attended the show last Friday night, Sept. 8, said, “This isn’t what I expected.” We’re lead to imagine a show that is filled with bathroom humor. That’s not what happens on the stage. This is a serious, significant play.
The plot deals with a large metropolis where a devastating 20-year drought has put water at a premium. People are not permitted to wash their car, water the lawn or use bathrooms in their own home. They must go to public amenities (public toilets) and pay to urinate or defecate. The police arrest people for using a convenient tree as a hiding place when they urinate.
Urine Good Company (UGC) is the organization that owns and supervises the public amenities. With the help of the local government, UGC officials will soon raise the fee for the use of the public amenities.
Officer Lockstock has a line that explains the problem: “There are harsh laws ensuring that people pay to pee, and if they are broken, the perpetrator is sent to a place called Urinetown.” The plot concerns big business and big government forcing unjust taxes on people to bring in more money.
Bobby Strong’s father is taken off to Urinetown for the failure to pay for the use of Public Amenity No. 9. Bobby then leads a revolt, which results in the kidnapping of Hope Cladwell, the daughter of Caldwell B. Cladwell (Robert Stoeckle), the chief executive officer of UGC. These two fall in love and work together to right the wrong.
The real stars of this production may be the playwrights: Mark Hollmann (music and lyrics) and Greg Kotis (book and lyrics). The playwrights have written a Brechtian-style script.
The story is narrated by Officer
Lockstock (Al Bundonis), who explains the plot, the
characters, provides the backstory and summarizes
the events not played on stage. Lockstock is often joined
by Little Sally (Karen Katz), a young woman who looks
like she stepped out of the cast of “Annie.”
In fact, her lines have her tumbling over the lyrics
to Annie’s big song “Tomorrow.” However,
in “Urinetown,” she never gets the lyrics
exactly like those in “Annie.”
In addition to “Annie,”
the playwrights satirize “Les Misérables,”
with the strong male leading the revolution supported
by flying banners. In the director’s notes, she
wrote that “Urinetown” had some “Chicago,”
a dash of “Guys and Dolls” and a whole lot
of “West Side Story.”
This production is filled
with sight gags, word play and
a brilliant script that won a Tony Award. The script
makes fun of government, corporations, greed, corruption
and Broadway shows and, of course, of “Urinetown.”
Director Jennifer Cody was in
the Broadway production of “Urinetown.”
She brings that background and her work in more than
a dozen off-Broadway and Broadway productions. Cody
has done an excellent job of making “Urinetown”
humorous and entertaining and, yet, she doesn’t
let the audience miss the story of greed and government
corruption. This is a talented director who can make
all of the plot points work for the audience.
Choreographer Brian Loeffler has
extensive experience as a choreographer and a performer.
He provided this cast with innovative dances and dance
patterns. Loeffler and Cody work well together. The
dances flow smoothly out of the dialogue and into the
songs and big production numbers.
Set designer Robert Kovach created
a set that is big, brash and bold. It dominates the
stage. Catwalks extend out over the dining area, and
tables/platforms in the dining area become playing areas.
The audience cannot escape.
Costume designer Dale DiBernardo
created clothing for the
poor and the wealthy and made all of the costumes stage-worthy;
they worked for small, quiet scenes or for big production
numbers that require the wearers to dance.
Musical director Steve Parsons
and four other musicians were on stage and provided
excellent support and leadership for the musical numbers.
Bundonis, as Lockstock, narrates
the story with humor and wit. He sings and dances well
and makes the production move smoothly.
Bobby Strong (Chris Murrah) leads
the rebellion against UGC. Murrah has a strong voice
that takes command of the theater when
he sings “Run, Freedom, Run.” This is an
old-time gospel song that demands hand clapping and
toe tapping. However, by this point in the story, the
rebels have taken Hope (Holly Ann Butler) prisoner and
have tied her to a chair. But being tied to a chair
doesn’t stop Butler from singing, dancing (sort
of) and moving her chair to time with the music.
Butler and Murrah create a warm,
loving stage romance. But this is a dark play, and this
relationship is not to be.
through Nov. 4. The cast is excellent, the direction
and choreography are superior. This is one of the most
thought-provoking scripts to
come to Carousel. Don’t miss this excellent production.
For tickets, call (330) 724-9855.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in
communications and is a professor of communications
at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American
Theatre Critics Association.
Officer Lockstock (Al Bundonis) explains Urinetown to Little Sally (Karen Katz) in Carousel Dinner Theatre’s production of “Urinetown: The Musical!” Photo courtesy of Carousel Dinner Theatre