Review by Jody Miller
Inspired by the works of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, Urinetown is an irreverently humorous satire in which no one is safe from scrutiny.
Urinetown takes place in a time of desperation and desolation. A massive water shortage caused by a twenty year drought means that private toilets have been outlawed and the public now have to pay “for the privilege to pee”. These public amenities, as they’re known, are run by the evil Urine Good Company (UGC) headed up by the villainous Caldwell B. Cladwell. If citizens relieve themselves in public or refuse to pay the fee, they’re sent to the infamous Urinetown.
Directed by Canberra based performer/director Ylaria Rogers who leads a tight cast of 14, Urinetown takes the audience on an immersive adventure in Hayes intimate theatre, leaving the audience peeing themselves laughing.
Set in a grunge public bathroom with graffiti and posters, with just the use of a few ladders and scaffolding, set designer Monique Langford quickly sets the scene along with lighting designer Jasmin Borsovszkys consistent dark and grungy lighting, wowing the audience on arrival.
The show begins with ensemble actors on stage as the audience takes their seats, unfolding the story and grungy life in which they live as they rest upon multiple ladders, “clinging to tomorrow, by any means necessary”, which become an integral part of the piece.
As the production begins the cast reveal behind them an opening to a sewer in which the 5 piece band led by Musical Director Matthew Reid are nestled behind. The band exuberates a tone accurate to the setting of the show, never missing a beat, becoming a deep and intrinsic part of this story. Helen Wojtas designs costumes which quickly change from a shabby look, literally cut from the same cloth, tying the ensemble together to a quick shift into the bright colours of the Urine Good Company in seconds.
The cast includes a beautifully diverse range of performers from across Australia, Including the talented Joel Horwood who played an innocent yet fierce Bobby Strong. Horwood was predominant in each scene capturing the audience with his innocent eyes and simple outlook on life.
Petronella Van Tienen played an optimistic Hope Cladwell, the daughter of leader of the Urine Good Company Mr.Cladwell (Max Gambale). Petronella was a delight to watch, standing out from the ensemble with her captivating vocals and whimsical demeanour. She never misses a moment even with half her face covered; she shows the capacity to seamlessly transition between the feeling of new love and the possibility of death within seconds.
Alongside these performers were experienced thespians Karen Vickery as Lockstock and Deanna Farnell as Pennywise. Both these performers were strong presences in the production with distinctive and fierce versions of the characters, proving powerhouse vocals and strength and certainty within the story.
Crowd favourite was Natasha Vickery portraying an outstanding Little Sally. Vickery showed a sincerity within her character in a show which is ‘taking the piss’ whilst also holding the humour as Little Sally within each interaction. A concept that Vickery approaches impeccably.
A notable mention goes to Joe Dinn, who played Ma Strong/Senator Flipp, a performer who was also included within the Canberra season. Dinn was a highlight within the production seamlessly flipping between characters adding value to each ensemble piece.
A strong ensemble consists of Babra toparas, Joe Dinn, Benoit Vari, Artemis Alfonzetti, Tom Kelly, Dani Caruso and Kira Leiva, a solid mix of performers impeccably juggling multiple roles and costumes moving fluently through the story, all contributing strong qualities, a joyful amount of over-dramatic acting at times and strong dance movement to the diverse range of characters.
Director Ylaria Rogers created a remarkable minimalist production which seemed to work effortlessly in the intimate theatre space. Rogers creates a whole world with the use of a few ladders and scaffolding showing different locations and a cleverly executed death. Choreography is unmatched by the talented Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell’s work is never unnecessary and is filled with spontaneity and musicality which the cast follow in their stride never missing even the sharpest of beats.
Urinetown, the musical at the Hayes Theatre, is a hilarious, powerful and compelling story filled with musical parodies, theatre tropes … and a substantial serving of humour.
Urinetown is playing at the Hayes Theatre, running till the 5th of February, tickets are available at https://hayestheatre.com.au/event/urinetown/