If your taste in musicals runs to the light, bouncy, and life-affirming, you might want to take a pass on the Spreckels Theatre Company’s latest production. If, however, your taste runs more to the dark and twisted, then you won’t find Urinetown, the Musical too draining. It runs in Rohnert Park through March 1.
Set in a dystopian future where decades of drought have led to the regulation and privatization of water intake and outtake, the show by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis made quite a splash on Broadway in 2011 and was nominated for ten Tony Awards (winning three.) It’s an odd combination of satire, parody, social drama, and love story.
The show opens at Amenity #9, the “poorest, filthiest urinal in town” where citizens line up to pay for the privilege to pee. Failure to pay or to be caught urinating in public leads to banishment to Urinetown, a place from where no one has ever returned.
The Urine Good Company, headed by the dastardly Caldwell B. Cladwell (Tim Setzer), seeks to hike their outrageous fees even more. This doesn’t sit well with Amenity attendant Bobby Strong (Joshua Bailey) who’s soon fomenting rebellion. Complications ensue when he finds himself falling in love with Cladwell’s daughter Hope (Julianne Thompson Bretan). Will their love be strong enough to break the stranglehold her father has on everyone’s bladder? Spoiler alert! Nope. As Officer Lockstock (David Yen) makes clear in his introduction, this isn’t a “happy” musical.
Actually, it’s barely a musical at all. It’s more of a single-themed Forbidden Broadway-type revue with each musical number reminiscent of another show. “Look at the Sky” smells of Les Misérables, “What is Urinetown?” brings Fiddler on the Roof to mind, and “Run Freedom Run” has shades of Guys and Dolls or even How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in it. The show’s best number may be its only non-referential one – “Don’t Be the Bunny”.
Director Jay Manley has an excellent cast at work here. Bailey and Thompson Bretan bring earnest demeanors and terrific voices to their characters. Setzer obviously relishes in Cladwell’s villainy. Yen keep things whizzing by with his humorous exposition, often in tandem with Denise Elia-Yen’s Little Sally. The show also benefits from a strong ensemble.
Michella Snider’s choreography also pays homage to other Broadway musicals, and Lucas Sherman and a five-piece orchestra handle the musical responsibilities with aplomb.
Urinetown may leave a bad taste in the mouth of some, but if you’re in the mood for something decidedly different then, by all means, go.
‘Urinetown, the Musical’ runs through March 1 at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7:30pm; the Sunday matinees are at 2pm; and there’s a Thursday, February 27 performance at 7:30 pm.
For more information, go to spreckelsonline.com