URINETOWN by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, directed by John Rando, with Stephen Patterson, Cara Leslie, Mary Ann McDonald, Frank Moore, David Keeley, Steven Gallagher and Jennifer Waiser. Presented by CanStage and Dancap Private Equity at the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to July 11, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $45-$85. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
I'm not sure what Urinetown, the salty musical that originated a few years ago at the New York City Fringe, would mean to someone who knows nothing about musicals. But for those even a bit familiar with the genre's conventions, it's pretty entertaining.
Set in the distant future in an unnamed city where water is scarce and corporations make you pay to pee (letting loose outdoors gets you a trip to Urinetown), the piece is an amusing send-up of capitalist greed, police collusion and political kickbacks. Fitting viewing in an election year.
But mostly it's about winking knowingly at other musicals. Creators Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann tip their hats to every show from West Side Story (the snapping fingers) to Les Misérables (the flag-waving scene).
An earnest grad student could make a case that this is postmodern, and that the show's self-referential narrator ( David Keeley as an old-fashioned policeman named Officer Lockstock) is a Brechtian device. That would be taking the show far too seriously.
Urinetown wants to be all things to all people - a pro-environment piece, a political parable. Hell, there's even an existential message if you want it. But it shies away from any deep or real sentiment.
I saw the original off-Broadway production and thought it too long and dreary. What's onstage here is closer to the more upbeat Broadway production. The satire and parody are sharpened, and individual scenes - especially one show-stopping gospel number - occasionally dazzle. Especially noteworthy is the lighting design by Brian MacDevitt , who creates mood and ambience effortlessly.
It's still too long by half an hour, but there's always something to watch, and the performers are well cast. Keeley oozes patronizing charm, Mary Ann McDonald vamps it up as the gatekeeper of a paid washroom, and Stephen Patterson and Cara Leslie display the right mix of sweet and saccharine as the romantic leads.
Best is Jennifer Waiser , who plays the roller-skate-wearing Little Sally with a goo-goo-googly voice and an optimism that makes you feel guilty for ever liking that musical about a little orphan named Annie.