Herald-Times Review by Doris Lynch
When I was young, train and bus stations and even some department stores had pay toilets, and on several occasions, I watched women slither across dirty floors to avoid paying for something so necessary and basic. Despite its crass name, “Urinetown The Musical,” this play explores a city where everyone, especially the poor, has to pay to pee.
Monroe County Civic Theater is the only all-amateur theater in the area, and wow, did this vibrant cast of varied ages bring the production to life. Eric Anderson Jr. provided excellent direction.
A decades-long drought has ruined Urinetown’s water table, and Caldwell B. Cladwell’s monopoly has taken over the city facilities, where he keeps raising fees higher and higher. Frank Buczolich captures both the evil and jovial practicality of a corporate titan indifferent to the fact that his profits cause people pain.
One of them is Old Man Strong (Adrian Cox-Thurmond) who becomes the first casualty of the play; because yes, take away a man’s ability to do something necessary, and there will be some willing to risk death instead. This only strengthens the resolve of his son, Bobby, who works as the assistant superintendent at Facility No. 9. Cameron Butler’s hero is both tough and kind. His powerful voice and stage presence were commanding.
Of course, you can find love even near the latrines, and there Bobby finds Hope. Audie Deinlein gives a fine portrayal of a rich young woman drawn to the barricades. She shares a delightful duet with Butler, “Follow Your Heart,” where they read what is inside each other.
As you might guess from the title, the play is also both campy and postmodern, making fun of itself while broadcasting predictions of when certain events will happen in the script — “that will happen in the all-cast number in Act Two.” Engineering these one-way audience chats were Officer Lockstock (Eric Van Gucht) and Little Sally (Hadley Abrams in the productions Thursday and Saturday.)
Abrams was a joy to watch throughout — her dancing, singing and acting were all strong. Her solo number in Act 2 was mesmerizing, and equally good when it turned into a duet with Butler.
Liesl Cruz nailed down the bureaucratic, rules-centric character of Penelope Pennywise. Yet her portrayal was nuanced, she showed that someone could be both coldhearted and still touched by other’s dreams.
As the corrupt, bought-off Senator Fipp, Nick Pappas was delightful to watch. But as the bloodthirsty, vengeful and vile Hot Blades Harry, he was even funnier as he led the renegades after Bobby disappeared.
Vocally, the cast was mixed. The leads were all excellent, though a couple sang too quietly. Some cast members were not as talented vocally, but as an ensemble, the sound rocked. The choir number and spiritual were also very strong. Callie Rekas’ choreography depicted both the uptight office folk and the revolutionary street people. The dancing made each number visually interesting.
The fine band consisted of June Lee, Kevin Staggs, C. Neil Parsons, Stefan Lenthe and Don Stejskal.
Although first produced in New York more than a decade ago, “Urinetown” seems ever more timely now with its themes of exploitation, injustice and environmental desecration. That said, despite its serious themes, the musical is sly, delightfully clever, full of humor and brimming with life. In other words, it’s one not to miss.