Urinetown: The Musical
Directed by Bryan Fonseca
Through Oct. 9
2002 was a banner year for the Phoenix Theatre. They produced two shows that the theater community still talks about: Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Bat Boy. 2005 is shaping up to be another such year. Urinetown: The Musical overflows with the same kind of crazed playfulness that made Bat Boy so beloved.
Jeremy Brimm and Emily Ristine are star-crossed lovers in 'Urinetown: The Musical' at the Phoenix Theatre.
Urinetown is similar to Bat Boy in all the ways that count. Both have outrageous premises, send up other shows and mock the Broadway musical so successfully that you sometimes forget it's a joke. And, most importantly, both acquired casts that knocked themselves out.
Here, the residents of an unidentified town are living under the thumb of Caldwell B. Cladwell, who owns the public amenities in town. A "drought" causes private toilets to be obsolete, so now, under penalty of banishment to Urinetown, people must pay to pee. Of course, there is a revolution, young love and a spunky little girl to make it all more interesting, jazzed up by some very crazy choreography, an Avenue Q moment and a song about intertwined aortas.
There is simply no way to convey how wonderfully bizarre this musical is. Theater fanatics will fawn over it on one level, and the casual theater-goer will be thrown into hysterics on another level.
Emily Ristine, a vet of Bat Boy, plays Hope Cladwell, the oh-so-innocent daughter of the show's tyrant, to perfection. Jeremy Brimm plays the idealistic rebel Bobby Strong with equal parts sweet and, well, strong.
Phebe Taylor (last seen here in Boston Marriage) as the precocious, stuffed-animal-toting Little Sally is at the crux of the show. She and Daniel Scharbrough as Officer Lockstock keep the audience informed about what's happening - and what a musical should be. Instead of auxiliary characters, they become crucial humor points. The same goes for Megan McKinney as Miss Pennywise, the operator of the nastiest public toilet in town.
But Kurt Owens as Cladwell is the great caricature. With just a touch of Jim Carrey (think Lemony Snicket) he creates evil hilarity.
Voices here are as good as they get. The one caveat is that occasionally volume (or the lack thereof) made it difficult to catch all the lyrics.
Choreography by Ricardo Melendez plays a vital part in the bizarre goings-on. Anyone who can get a West Side Story flavor and the dance move "the running man" into the same show deserves kudos. Not to mention the cast members who performed it.
So far, this is the top contender for best show of the year - by far. See it.
Urinetown continues through Oct. 9, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $29, but well worth it. Call the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave., at 635-PLAY for reservations, as shows are selling out.