I’ve been meaning to write this review for the past 54 days, but every time I try to sit down and type I can’t quite find the words to describe this masterpiece. Given I loved it enough to warrant a repeat viewing (last night), with the production refreshed in my mind, now is probably the optimal time to get going … though it’s likely that this will still be wholly incoherent!
Urinetown is a ‘satirical comedy musical’ (I may have stolen those three words from Wikipedia, because well, I don’t think there is a better way of describing it!); it has a lot to say about capitalism but does so in a very tongue in cheek manner. Simultaneously the book mocks the art of musical theatre; all of which results in an uplifting, thought provoking, gruesome, wonderful, wonderful evening’s entertainment.
The music is almost cartoon like, it reminded me a lot of Avenue Q, but of course, the premise of the songs is a lot darker – I mean, one is titled ‘Snuff that Girl‘. I think it was this juxtaposition that I enjoyed most. The score also parodies a multitude of musical styles throughout, with the highlight being ‘Run Freedom Run!’ which literally stopped the show both times I was there.
Clever wit is always funnier than mindless tomfoolery, but Urinetown contains a great balance of each. The choreography definitely added to the sense of mocking and was executed by an energetic ensemble. The versatile set was also particularly clever; it is broken up into two levels, which easily distinguishes between two groups of characters throughout the plot. It filled the space really well and was a lot more lavish than I had anticipated from such a small venue.
In terms of the cast, I was truly impressed. Of course, Jenna Russell was her usual brilliant self and her character, Pennywise has some of the funniest lines. But I was also pleasantly surprised by Richard Fleeshman as the male lead, Bobby Strong and indeed the rest of the cast who seemed to bounce through the show with boundless energy and vocal strength.
Overall, I would recommend this show to anyone who wants a fun yet thought provoking night at the theatre. But be quick, it closes on May 3rd … theatre gods please let it transfer somewhere else? Just to add I think the St James’ Theatre is a great addition to London theatreland and I look forward to seeing what they can come up with next!