Review: ‘Urinetown’ at Wilson Theater at Woodrow Wilson High School

0
17

Urinetown,The Musical, the totally odiferous sounding but truly entertaining musical, comes up smelling like a rose in its production by the students and faculty at Woodrow Wilson High School. The direction by Harriet Bronstein and Jill Roos turn this commentary on politics, power, musicals and true love into a fast paced story of the overuse of water leading to pay-for-pee public toilets, oligarchs, and the consequences of love and revolution.

The quality and depth of talent at Wilson is amazing and of much higher quality than one would expect of a high school production. Everything is in balance: the band, lead singers and chorus, choreography, set design, and lighting complement each other.

The audience is led through the performance by commentator and Officer Lockstock. Teo Topa’s deep and powerful baritone focus the attention of the audience on the issues at hand. His interaction with Little Sally (a ragtag appearing Gabby Anifantis) helps develop and explain the plot. Anifantis’ voice is a great complement to that of Topa.

Teo Topa and Gabby Anifantis in Urinetown. Photo courtesy of Judy Licht.
Teo Topa and Gabby Anifantis in ‘Urinetown, The Musical.’ Photo by Judy Licht.

The ensemble members also have sparkling voices and execute choreography by Nikki Gambhir crisply. Costumes clearly differentiated the poor and the rich in society. The rich person ensemble led by Ernesto Fritts as Mr. McQueen, and oligarch Caldwell B. Cladwell, played by Elliot Diner, combine song and dance to present a hilarious version of “Don’t be the Bunny,” perhaps the best known number in Urinetown. “The Cop Song,” with Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel (William Wright) and its own ensemble, is presented in hip-hop style, adding an unexpected note of glee.

Second act songs, “Run, Freedom, Run,” performed as a jazz number and “I See a River” as a spiritual, bring similar delight due to their unexpected renditions.

Franny Sewell, as Penelope Pennywise, is a ball of fire with both an awe-inspiring voice and pushy character, grabs the spotlight as the stern collector of fares required to use the public ‘amenities’ in the poor section of town.

Elliot Diner’s portrayal of Caldwell B. Cladwell, the oligarch controlling the public amenities, exudes extreme sleaziness in voice and movement.

Bobby Strong, played by Stephen Berg, and Cladwell’s daughter Hope (Joey Schulman) provide the love story essential to every musical. His high tenor matches his role as the idealistic leader of a revolution by the poor. Joey Schulman’s range allows her to easily turn from the sweet young object of Berg’s affection to the strong leader of the revolution after his journey to Urinetown.

Stage and Props Designer, Dan Iwaniec, made simplicity shine. Rather than cluttering the stage with extraneous props and background, he lets the actors and ensemble tell their story through emotions and song. The Lighting design by Max Dolittle followed Iwaniec’s lead with a focus on center stage with a gradual dimming toward the edges. Also effective was a fog machine that covered the stage with a slight mist, not belching fumes.

Franny Sewell as Penelope Pennywise.. Photo by Judy Licht.
Franny Sewell as Penelope Pennywise. Photo by Judy Licht.

First performed in 2001, Urinetown, The Musical, with book and lyrics by Greg Kotis and music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann, was as prescient for its time as it is today. Enhanced gilt covered toilet seats and plunger presage the incoming Trump administration.

First performed in 2001, Urinetown, The Musical with book and lyrics by Greg Kotis and music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann, was as prescient for its time as it is today. Enhanced gilt covered toilet seats and plunger presage the incoming Trump administration.

urinetown-3

Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.

Urinetown, The Musical is presented by Wilson Theater at Woodrow Wilson High School  – 3950 Chesapeake Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets for performances on November 18 and 19, 2016, at 7:30 PM are available at the door.