‘Urinetown’ at The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts by Derek Mong

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The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts delivers a ‘royal flush’ with its brilliant production of Urinetown directed with gusto by Delia Taylor. Urinetown has Music by Mark Hollman, Lyrics by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, and Book by Mr. Kotis.

Urinetown takes place in the future when private bathrooms vanish due to severe water shortages that leave private toilets in short supply. Public urination has been criminalized, and citizens are now required to pay to use public “amenities” run by the megacorporation ‘Urine Good Company.’

The musical tells the story of Bobby Strong (Matt Calvert), a nascent revolutionary who threatens the entire system by encouraging his peers to “pee free” against the will of the corporate managers of Urine Good Company. With the entre musical self-consciously narrated by Offer Lockstock (Ricky Vannelli) and Little Sally (Lara Taylor), Urinetownsimultaneously traces adolescent romance between Bobby Strong and the privileged Hope Caldwell (Anna Phillips-Brown), the tense relationship between Bobby and local amenity manager Penelope Pennywise (Dani Ebbin), and the growing feud between Bobby and the overbearing head of Urine Good Company – Caldwell B. Cladwell (Aiden Quartana).

Penelope Pennywise (Dani Ebbin) sets the townfolk straight by telling them “It’s a Privilege to Pee.” Photo by Lauren Kirby.

Standout performances include Ricky Vannelli, whose deep voice and statuesque stature perfectly capture the essence of the rigid Officer Lockstock. His narrative partner, Lara Taylor (Little Sally), convincingly carries us through the story while nailing her challenging comedic timing to accurately and hilariously portray the fleeting whims and fancies of a young girl confused amidst social revolution. Dani Ebbin – though initially tough to understand because of her heavy stage accent -perfectly captures the self-assured, overbearing Penelope Pennywise as she stomps about the stage without missing a beat. Aidan Quartana manages one of the trickiest roles in the show as Caldwell B. Cladwell, narrowly and effortlessly walking the line between total seriousness and satirical absurdity in “Don’t Be the Bunny”- a hilarious song told in metaphor to his daughter about the competitiveness of the real world.

Finally, Matt Calvert and Anna Phillips-Brown both merit recognition for their portrayals of Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell for delivering these vocally – and theatrically – demanding roles with finesse. Their rendition of “Follow Your Heart” was one of the most brilliantly and precisely acted pieces I have ever seen on a local stage and was one of many songs that left me amazed by the caliber of acting by this talented cast. Make no mistake – because Urinetown is satirical, it makes it that much harder to deliver convincingly and honestly, but these young performers delivered it with ease and with feeling.

While this production of Urinetown featured only a four-piece band (keyboard, reeds, trombone, and bass) under the musical direction of Bryan Lilley and minimal scenery, it packed a wallop! The simple sets refreshingly highlighted the talent overflowing on the stage. Lilley’s musicians perfectly complemented and didn’t overpower the young voices on the stage.

Urinetown was originally produced on Broadway in September 2001, and enjoyed a three-year run Despite the (intentionally) risqué name and subject matter, the concept behind Urinetown is pretty timeless; it is fundamentally a narrative about the difficulty of change, challenging the social order, forbidden romance, and the struggle between rich and poor.

Hope Cladwell (Anna Phillips-Brown) finds herself in a tight spot in The Theatre Lab’s production of 'Urinetown.' Photo by Lauren Kirby.

The Theatre Lab’s well-performed, biting, funny, and brilliantly directed production of Urinetown is a stunner! There is so much exiting talent in this production that this brilliant cast makes the future of musical theatre extremely promising!

Urinetown plays through August 11, 2012 at The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts – 733 8th Street NW, in Washington DC. Purchase your tickets online.

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Derek Mong
Derek is a DC-native and a graduate of Duke University (B.A Political Science). During his junior/senior year at Duke, Derek served as a Marketing and Public Relations intern at the Nederlander-operated Durham Performing Arts Center. At his internship, Derek developed marketing campaigns and assisted press in coverage of the four major Broadway engagements that season: Memphis, The Addams Family, Bring It On, and Wicked. Upon graduating from Duke in 2012, Derek joined a tech and management consulting firm in Arlington, VA, where he currently works. Derek enjoys frequenting the DC-NYC theatre scene; when not in the theatre, Derek can probably be found running outdoors, blogging, playing the piano, traveling the country, and, of course, tweeting (@derekmong). Derek is currently obsessed with Disney's 'Newsies' on Broadway.