With an all-around amazing cast, impressive choreography and sets and an important social message, Urinetown was the perfect musical for Ohio University's Division of Theater to produce after a four-year gap since its last musical production.

You’re in for a treat when you visit Urinetown.

The Division of Theater is not a musical theater program, but you wouldn’t know it if you saw its production of the musical Urinetown, the first show of the Spring Semester. The division partnered with the School of Music to produce the school’s first musical since the 2012 production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. (Musicals might now be produced every other year, according to a previous Post report.)

The play is a satirical dark comedy about a dystopian society in which a ban has been placed on the use of private toilets so no one can use the restroom freely, and megacorporation Urine Good Company controls the rights of the citizens’ use of water. Soon, Bobby Strong and a group of poor citizens revolt against the company to fight for the “privilege to pee.”

With an impeccable cast, impressive mini-orchestra and always-stunning set, Urinetown was a smart choice on the division’s part. The musical, which won three Tony Awards in 2002, is conscious of itself and includes meta jokes about theater similar to how 30 Rock joked about TV. (Current Broadway sensation Something Rotten! does this to the nines in its showstopping number “A Musical.”) For instance, Officer Lockstock, the meta narrator in Urinetown, opens the musical by singing about how "Too Much Exposition" can kill a show.

When theater can get a bad rap for being pretentious and stuffy, shows such as Urinetown save the day. The Division of Theater often produces works the average audience member might not know about, other than William Shakespeare. Though it is fun to dive into those serious shows like Rashomon or abstract pieces like bobrauschenbergamerica, shows like Urinetown seem more accessible to the average attendee.

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Overall, audiences might have an easier time getting invested in the story and tone of the show, but Urinetown still packs a punch. The musical has a political agenda and depicts the pitfalls of capitalism all the while commenting on the unsustainable way in which humans use the Earth’s resources — hence the Thomas Robert Malthus reference at the end.

“Don’t you think people want to be told their way of life is unsustainable?” Lockstock says to Little Sally toward the conclusion.

It rates next to Noises Off as one of the best productions in the past four years because every component was on point: the entire cast, the set, the costumes, the lights and the sound.

A musical is only as good as its ensemble, and Urinetown’s ensemble isn’t going down the drain anytime soon. No weak link could be found. Colin Cardille continues to dominate the Ohio University theater scene with his performance as Lockstock. Jarahme Pollock, who played rebellion leader Bobby Strong, delivered an adequate performance before truly finding his footing and gusto in the “Run, Freedom, Run!” gospel-esque number, which received the loudest claps and laughs of the night. Bradley McKelvey-Askin impressed with strong vocals and a charming performance as Hope Cladwell — even if she was bound and gagged for a few numbers. Kristin Conrad really proved to have too high of a register for her part as Penelope Pennywise. Though she dominated the role, it seemed as if she was holding back a lot of the time on how far she could take a note.

No one will want to “be the bunny” after seeing Tyler Thress perfectly encapsulate the cunning villain Caldwell B. Cladwell, who joyously comes across like Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini from The Princess Bride with his wit. Outside of the main characters, William McAtee is impossible to miss with his emphatic performance as Cladwell’s assistant Mr. McQueen. McAtee’s hilariously outrageous expressions and enthusiasm can only be compared to Stephen Stucker’s performance as Johnny in Airplane! It’s uncanny and was a true treat to see every time he was on stage.

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If there is one thing audiences can count on in an OU production, it’s an amazing set, and Urinetown is no different. The set only has two levels but is effectively transformed from Cladwell’s office to the sewers that are the home base of the revolution.

Christi Camper Moore masterfully choreographed the play, working each actor’s ability to create a tight performance. It’s hard to resist grabbing a flashlight and joining Lockstock and Officer Barrel (Damian George) in their fun, quick-paced “Cop Song,” or tip-toeing along to the catchy and jazzy "We're Not Sorry."

If history repeats itself, an OU-produced musical might not come around until the next Leap Year, so “follow your heart” and see the smart, sharp and simply spectacular production as many times as you can.

Rating: 5/5



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