Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Bristol Theatre Company’s current show is “Urinetown” which won three Tony Awards in 2002. “Urinetown” is set in the future where a drought of epic proportions has forced corrupt officials to come up with a unique way to conserve water: people may only use public restrooms and they must pay for the privilege. Fed-up citizens take to the streets, but those breaking the law are carted off to the mysterious “Urinetown” never to be seen or heard from again. The satirical musical pokes fun at and sends up “The Threepenny Opera”, “Annie”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “West Side Story” and the Gershwin romances simultaneously. Director Chris Plonka casts all these roles beautifully and infuses the show with high energy from start to finish. He also brings out the light hearted side and brings the much needed tongue in cheek humor it deserves. Diane Campagna creates all the dance steps which spoofs the other shows wonderfully while musical director, Mario Sasso supplies the topnotch musical direction to pull off this unique and funny show.
The show’s narrator, Officer Lockstock greets us and informs us through the lyrics of the first song , “Better hope your pennies add up to the fee, we can’t have you peeing for free.” He informs us that Urinetown is a mythical place filled with symbolism and stuff like that but it won’t be seen until the second act. Lockstock’s lines are clever, witty and humorous. They are delivered by Sandy Remington who also displays his singing and dancing talents by singing the lead in the opening number, “Urinetown” as well as with his fellow cops in “Cop Song” which is reminiscent of a rap song from “Hamilton.” His fellow officer, Barrel is humorously played by John Sheppard, the bumbling aide to the chief cop. He also has an excellent voice and line delivery. Another scene stealer is Abby Moore as Little Sally who is the voice of reason in this madcap show. She is a senior in high school. Little Sally asks all these hard hitting questions of Lockstock who is unable to answer them including metaphysical and hydraulic questions. Abby displays her voice in “Tell Her I Love Her” about Bobby and Hope. The young lovers in this show are Bobby Strong, a poor boy, and Hope Cladwell, a rich girl, played by Nathan Molina and Courtney Contente. They meet and fall in love after his father is brought to Urinetown for peeing without payment and Bobby decides to stage an uprising not realizing Hope’s father is the culprit. They get to display their powerful tenor and soprano voices in “Follow Your Heart”, where they listen to each other’s heart. He also sings “Look at the Sky” which is like a “Les Miserables” number and “Run Freedom Run”, a revival song. Courtney sings the powerful ballad “I See a River.” They both do an excellent job in these leading roles.
The villain of this show is Caldwell B. Cladwell who controls the amenities corporation, treating his lowly cohorts like dirt. John Silveira is a hoot as this Snidley Whiplash type cad who gets to sing and strut his stuff the “Mr. Cladwell” number with his minions as well as in “Don’t Be a Bunny” which is reminiscent of “Little Girls” from “Annie” where he sings to a bunny eared assistant. Derek Smith does a great job as Mr. McQueen, Cladwell’s right hand man who gets to do his dirty work while Daniel Martens plays Senator Fipp, the shifty public official and gets to sing in the quintet number, “Why Did I Listen to that Man?” with Nathan, Courtney, Abby and Samantha. Samantha Brilhante plays the Brechtian like character, Penelope Pennywise. She runs the public toilet #9 with an iron fist. Samantha is perfect for this role and plays this bitchy broad with the right amount of sex appeal. She gets to sing “It’s a Privilege to Pee” with her poor customers while threatening to call the cops and in “I’m Sorry” with Cladwell after she spills a secret from their past. I last reviewed her in “Hedda Gabler” at PC in 2010. Other scene stealers include RJ Lima as Hot Blades Harry and especially Sarah Reed as Little Becky Two-Shoes who lead the topnotch chorus in “Snuff that Girl” which is like “Cool” from “West Side Story” and in “We’re Not Sorry” which is an energetic Charleston. Sarah shines in this show with her animated expressions. So for a splendid rendition of this contemporary musical, be sure to catch “Urinetown” in Bristol before time runs out.
Bristol Theatre Company, Reynolds School, 235 High St, Bristol, RI
www.bristoltheatrecompany.org or btc-urinetown.brownpapertickets.com