Every so often I see a show that really wows me. It doesn't happen as often as I would like, but it is a thrill when it does, and that is exactly the feeling I had after seeing Urinetown at Lyric Arts. It was my first time ever seeing the show, but I had been familiar with the soundtrack and the general story and concept. A dystopian, comedic musical that breaks the fourth wall, about a reality in which water is scarce, making everything that it touches, including plumbing and bathrooms highly regulated through cash flow. A private company, that also has great control over the government, manages all the public toilets, and as prices are continually raised the gap between the rich and the poor becomes glaringly obvious as the destitute scrape together pennies for the privilege to pee. As with many dystopian stories a hero rises to lead a revolution. But unlike most dystopian/revolution stories things don't follow the normal story arch, and there are many more laughs.
I saw the show as part of a blogger event along with some of my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers, Cherry and Spoon, Artfully Engaging, Play off the Page, and Say Entirely, and because of this I had the fantastic opportunity to chat with members of the cast afterwards. They described direction that they received from Matt McNabb as if they were characters living inside a cartoon. This was very obvious in the staging of the show and worked wonderfully. All of the characters on stage were very clear individuals, although some character had more lines, or a more fleshed out story, the line between leads and ensemble was much more blurred than in a typical broadway musical. This only makes every moment on stage more fun to watch. Besides the fantastic performances being given on stage, of which I feel like I need to call out Becca Hart's Hope Cladwell and particularly fun to watch and well thought out, there was a beautiful set designed by Gabriel Gomez to feast your eyes on, stylized art deco turned dirty and grungy.
All elements of the show balanced and worked together well, but the choreography by Penelope French was a real stand out. Urinetown has a lot of things going on within many songs and it is easy for things to get messy and distracted, but instead it was more organized chaos, a phrase that came up in our post play discussion. Many of the songs in Urinetown, despite the dark and poignant story, are upbeat, and the choreography matched it. In the song "Run Freedom Run" I found myself laughing more at a song than I think I have ever done before.
Urinetown is a show that has it all, a great cast, a beautiful set, creative choreography with a story that seems as if it were written for our current times that will make you laugh but will also leave you thinking for days afterwards.
It is running at Lyric Arts until April 2nd. I highly recommend that you head on over to Main Street in Anoka to take in this truly impressive production.
*Photo: Cast of Lyric Art's Urinetown, photo by Scott Pakudaitis