George Washington University’s Department of Theatre & Dance and the Department of Music have joined forces to create a production of Urinetown The Musical that is simply a pisser! You must pee-lieve me when I say that this hysterical production was one of the most enjoyable nights I have spent in the theatre this year! It proves once more that our local university theatre and music programs are filled with amazing talent and stars of the future.
I have always loved Urinetown because it was is so different and original and courageous, and really really funny. If you haven’t seen this wee-wee musical, you must get there this weekend to see this amazing cast sing and act and dance their hearts out and listen to four talented musicians: Peter Fraize (reeds), Brandon Nedwek (brass), Dennis Martinez (bass), and Musical Patrick O’Donnell (on keyboards) play the heck out of Mark Holliman’s music, (and never drowned out one lyric or overpowered a singer all night. You will love this young cast-a group of Energizer Bunnies who really know how to sell and wring a laugh out of every tongue-in-cheek clever lyric and every clever line from Greg Kotis’ funny book. I laughed so much I almost wet myself…
There is so much to rave about here so to avoid making this the longest review on record, I will cut to the highlights.
Stefan Sittig’s hoppin’ clever and humorous choreography (“Don’t Be the Bunny” is hare-raisingly outrageous) is simply brilliant, and hilarious, and so much fun to watch, and it’s not easy choreography to perform at times, but this ensemble is is having a blast with it.
Like the mega-blockbuster The Book of Morman-Urinetown is an homage to musical theatre – to Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miserables. and to West Side Story (there’s a lot of ‘Cool’ finger snappin’ in this one) among others, and it’s fun wondering what show they will spoof next as the show progresses. But there are also serious themes in the show-environmental concerns-and Director Muriel Von Villas nicely balances the funny with the serious and scary.
Kudos to every member of the Urinetown cast because everyone is perfectly cast.
Kevin Frey is marvelous as the dutiful-Javert-like Officer Lockstock, and although he nails all the comedy written for his character, his rich baritone booms throughout the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre’s intimate space. He grabs the audience right away and has them in his right pocket all evening-a great performance. And his bantering with Little Sally (the adorable Annie Ottati) is priceless. And what a performance by Ms. Ottati! She and her Teddy Bear stole the show and every time she spoke the audience roared. Her rendition of “Tell Her I Love Her” at the end of the second act was heartbreaking and drop-dead funny – all at the same time. I have seen dozens of actresses perform this song but this is now my favorite. What a Scene Stealer this was!
Shira Hereld has the right toughness and spunk in her performance as Penelope Pennywise. Her rendition of “It’s a Privilege to Pee”secured the audience’s wrath from the get-go. Daniel Fanelli is superb as the conniving Snidely Whiplash-ish Caldwell B. Cladwell, and he contributes powerful vocals on “Mr. Cladwell” and “Don’t Be the Bunny.” Nick Hong is perfectly silly and pathetic as the conflicted Senator Fipp. And kudos to the entire ensemble-all amazing performers. They get a real workout in this show and they wonderful performers.
And now to the rebellious Bobby Strong, played by Andy Lieberman and the rebellious and ditsy daughter of the pain-in-the-ass Cladwell-named Hope, played with much ‘something’s missing upstairs-ness,’ by Lindsay Martin. And what a couple they make. Lieberman has a fine voice, as we hear on “Look at the Sky” and ‘Run Freedom Run” (where he also proves to be an animated choir director!), and Martin counters with her beautiful vocals in their only duet “Follow Your Heart,” and leads a Hallelujah-filled “I See a River” in Act II.
Scenic Designer Kirk Kristlibas’ set is perfection-lots of wood and pipes and two levels (with stairs) and the teeny tiny orchestra is placed in the corner of the second level, and of course the “Pee station’ on the bottom floor that, although unseen, made my imagination wander…Carl F. Gudenius’ lighting really captured the different levels of emotions of the show. Reema F. Al-Bawardy’s costumes appropriately ranged from scrungy to classy as in Hope’s dresses (don’t want to give that away!). And Sound Mixer Austin Keefe contributions added to the storytelling of the show. Unfortunately there were some mics going in and out all night and I am confident that this issue will be resolved before tonight’s performance If it’s not-it’s off to Urinetown….
Don’t be the bunny and hop right over now and buy tickets to GWU’s Urinetown The Musical. It was a privilege to pee-oops!-be there-to see so many stage stars of the future perform.
And now I will end this review-which has too much exposition in it-don’t you think Little Sally? I know little Sally-the title is still awful!
Urinetown the Musical plays through this Sunday, November 2, 2014 at The Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at The George Washington University-800 21st Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.