Urinetown: The Musical

Michelle Bardach and Anton Lipovetsky Credit: David Cooper
Michelle Bardach and Anton Lipovetsky
Credit: David Cooper

At the Firehall Arts Centre until November 29, 2014

Posted November 6, 2014

Looking for a cure for the grey skies, blustery winds and never-ending rain? Urinetown: The Musical will banish your November blahs. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry – no, no, you won’t cry, you’ll just laugh and laugh and laugh. This is a big show on a small stage with some of the funniest, cleverest choreography (Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg) you’ll ever see. And it has a cast that is absolutely committed to making sure you have a great time. If director Donna Spencer (on stage for the first time in a long time) asks for 100 percent, this cast of sixteen plus a band of four musicians – under the musical direction of Steve Charles – gives 200 percent.

On opening night, Shane Snow (Hot Blades Harry) was on fire in the hilarious West Side Story finger-snapping, ‘ready-to-rumble’ sendup, “Snuff That Girl”. Choreographer Friedenberg gives him the moves and he explodes into action.

At the risk of offending Anton Lipovetsky as freedom fighter Bobby Strong, the best word to describe him is “adorable.” Everyone falls in love with Bobby because Lipovetsky is just so earnest, sweet and openhearted; his face is an open book. This young man seems capable of doing anything from the fey, pantalooned James I and shit-covered Poor Tom in Bard on the Beach’s Equivocation to troubled, autistic Ezra in Tiny Music. When Lipovetsky breaks into a smile, the sun comes out.

Andrew Wheeler, David Adams, Anton Lipovetsky and Chris Cochrane Credit: David Cooper
Andrew Wheeler, David Adams, Anton Lipovetsky and Chris Cochrane
Credit: David Cooper

David Adams, reprising the role he played in the original Firehall production back in 2006 and again in 2007, is Officer Lockstock and also the Narrator who lets us know right off the bat, that we’re not in Urinetown, this is “Urinetown: (pause) The Musical”. Urinetown is just “ a mythical place, a bad place” to which people who can’t afford the fee to pee are exiled. Capitalist pig Caldwell B. Cladwell (Andrew Wheeler), president of Urine Good Company (UGC), has cornered the market on public toilets now that water shortages are such that flushing is reserved for the rich. The narrator breaks into the action throughout with clever asides like, “You don’t want to overload with too much exposition”. Best of his asides – and Adams delivers all of them hilariously straight-faced – is during a slow motion fight between the street people and the cops, “”We’ve been thrown into confusion because we’re all moving so slowly.”

Costume designer Barbara Clayden dresses the street people in ripped, torn rags and the upper crust in business suits. Meghan Gardiner (Penelope Pennywise), as the fee-collecting manager of Amenity #9 in a place (designed by Ted Roberts) that could be right around the corner from the Firehall, is somewhere in between; she’s the hard-hearted paid employee of the UGC, making sure no one pees without paying. Gardiner is a real star and has a voice on her that blows the roof off.

Michelle Bardach makes her Firehall debut as Hope Cladwell. A lovely soprano, she’s merely sweet in Act 1 but gets to crank it up in Act 2. It is, like Westside Story, a Romeo and Juliet story with a fifty percent better ending. (I’ll let you figure that out.)

Tracey Power is back as pig-tailed innocent Little Sally, a role that’s a lot harder than it looks. Power has to maintain a squeaky little kid’s voice – even when she’s singing. Channeling Gilda Radner and the pigtailed girl in the Wendy’s ad, Power is a little powerhouse in overalls.

Giving excellent, energetic support and completing the cast are Chris Cochrane, Andrew Cohen, Katey Hoffman, Patrick Keating, Chris Lam, David Marr, Matt Palmer and Rosie Simon (just try to take your eyes off her).

Music, book and lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, this is one of the best productions in Firehall history. It’s big. It’s more fun than sitting in an ocean-view, two-holer with your sweetie. Funnier than the note left by the frugal fellow found dead outside a pay toilet: “Here I lie/broken hearted/paid a nickel/and only farted.”

It’s also prophetic and ends on a bewildering note: “Hail, Malthus.” Google it, if you’ve forgotten who Malthus was, and you’ll discover Urinetown: The Musical is not only a great giggle but gently, musically prophetic.

Should be Number One on your ‘must see’ list. You just gotta go.

Rosie Simon, Meghan Gardiner and Anton Lipovetsky Credit: David Cooper
Chris Lam, Rosie Simon, Meghan Gardiner and Anton Lipovetsky
Credit: David Cooper