Urinetown is a very weird show and one that’s very difficult to pull off. It’s a show whose tone is all over the place, whose characters’ flatness is integral to its gimmick, whose music is, while not bad, uninteresting, and whose general name and concept, as the show likes to point out, is a bit stupid. It requires thought, effort, work, and dedication to make this show work, and even then, success isn’t anywhere close to guaranteed. And the fact that out of all this mess, the Just So Society’s production of Urinetown was an incredibly entertaining, visually interesting romp of a show, only adds to this production’s merits.
The plot of Urinetown is all in all pretty simple, and pretty silly. A drought means that society has to conserve water, which has led to corporate control of public waste services until Bobby Strong decides to stand up for the people so everyone can pee for free. This wouldn’t work at all, except for the fact that the show itself acknowledges and revels in its own ridiculousness, mocking logical fallacies, plot conveniences, and the inherent kitsch of musical theatre. And it is here where the team for this show deserves loads of praise, because, for most the show, this tone is utterly nailed. The actors, for the most part, know that they’re in a show which is over the top and silly, and accordingly ham up the stage. Connor Powell and Hanna Lawson’s performances emblematize this approach, playing the villain, Cladwell, and his ultimately heroic daughter, Hope. The two played their roles to such an over the top degree that I couldn’t help myself from laughing and smiling whenever they were on stage. Furthermore, Jason Gallant’s performance as Officer Lockstock was standout, with a balance of dryness and absurdity that kept the play from being too silly to be successful.
Production in this show was similarly impressive, with this show fixing a lot of common issues I have with Just So Society productions, most noticeably choreography. Unlike previous shows, which involved a lot of standing in lines, even during the non-dance parts of Urinetown the scenes were full of motion and were set up to be visually interesting, not to mention the dance. Set design was similarly great, and although sight lines on the upper level were occasionally off, the set itself was visually impressing, and fit the grim and grimy setting well. Music direction should be praised as well, with group numbers standing out for vocal quality and performance. But the flaws of this show are unfortunately hard to escape entirely. The second act of this show drags, which requires an uptick in cast energy in turn. However, the dynamism of movement seen in earlier numbers turned into circular, dull blocking, and a lot of moments of tonal misunderstanding from the cast came through. Tech was somewhat inconsistent, with some audio levels being weirdly loud at times, while at others I wasn’t sure if peoples’ mics were turned on.
One of the struggles of putting this show on is that every small flaw hits far harder than it should. And even though this show was holistically well produced and directed, I still left not really having enjoyed the whole experience. And that speaks more to my taste than anything else, but it’s important to note that this show isn’t for everyone. In spite of that, I enjoyed Urinetown, and I cannot help but praise it’s near perfect execution.