Smashing that fourth wall from the start, Urinetown, the musical, directed by Ashley Zhangazha, makes for a quirky show that draws you in instantly. Beginning with the 'arrest' of Steve the band member, the audience are introduced to Officer Lockstock, played by Matthew Broome. He brings laughs as his unorthodox character explains the premise of the musical a little; setting the scene, while suggesting that Urinetown is a abominable mythical place that gets visited upon act 2. Speaking of the public amenities that litter the town and spark uprising in the midst of a water shortage it becomes apparent that many struggle to afford to pay to use these toilets, presenting political undertones that follow throughout the piece.
Penelope Pennywise (played by Boni Adeliyi) is the face of public amenity #9, having to uphold strict rules as to who can use the facilities, highlighting the fact that it is a privilege to happen. After his father got arrested and taken to the greatly feared Urinetown for deferring use of the amenities, Tyler-Jo Richardson as Bobby Strong feels passionate about bringing change to the system, and making them free. Also dubiously named, Caldwell B. Cladwell (played by Kishore Walker) makes a big entrance to his song and is revealed to be the owner of 'Urine Good Company', who are in control of the amenities in the area, and therefore oppose this view. Starting her new role as a fax and copier, his daughter, Hope Cladwell, performed brilliantly by Sarah Slimani, becomes conflicted, and is caught in the middle of a controversial battle of values. She manifests a stand out performance, and is undoubtably made for the stage. A young girl called 'Little Sally' (Frankie Hart) in also in the mix, and provides a thoroughly animated performance. It is clear that everyone chooses thoughtful mannerisms and conducts their character with ease.
Consistently interesting and dynamic choreography, coordinated by Vicki Igbokwe, works well in conjunction with the upbeat score, that features numerous theatrical tracks such as 'Urinetown', 'Mr. Cladwell', 'Follow Your Heart' and 'Run, Freedom, Run!'. Often with catchy lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, the cast each display aptitude in each number, and blend skilfully with one another.
Ragged costumes adorn the townsfolk of the area, and look effective thanks to Libby Watson, the designer, and despite the set being relatively basic, the narrative could still be told efficiently.
The show is left without a happy conclusion, which makes it a fascinating piece, due to its otherwise somewhat lighthearted nature. It could be argued that some of the humour may be stifled in that elements such as the exaggerated fake laughs detract from what is generally cleverly presented. Despite being a little strange, its relevant storyline is timeless, and will continue to discuss opposition and deprivation in its creative way.
Each member of this Guildhall School cast have excellent characterisation, vocals and movement, meaning together they have made Urinetown, the musical an established production.
Watch it for yourself here: