“This is Urinetown”. UMMTA begins its production of Urinetown by thrusting the audience into a shiny, plastic world of propaganda posters and sparkly, smiling ensemble members. Director Bradley Dylan has done a good job of directing what I must say is a very committed cast in a hyper-caricature, camp and energetic production.
Urinetown is a very clever piece of theatre that exploits the standard arc of a modern musical whilst giving a nod to a society that is facing a depressing future (hello, global warming).
The cast are a tight-knit ensemble with some quite remarkable standouts. In the role of Hope, Nat Montalto gives a stunning performance, displaying a true understand of Hope’s character arc with a strong sense of comic timing. In the role of her father – Caldwell Cladwell – Henry Shaw is a knockout. An incredible voice in both song and spoken word, Shaw is a presence you cannot ignore.
The role of Little Sally is often thrown to an actress who can play ‘small and cute’ and not much beyond that. Tabitha Lee brings a new approach to Little Sally, giving adding a layer of true intellect that transformed Little Sally from cute comic relief, to a character to be respected and remembered.
As Officer Lockstock, Len Duniec resembled Sandra Bullock in The Minion Movie – a really cold and overly-smiley, all-knowing narrator. Vocally, she coped well with the transposition changes that come with singing a role written for the opposite gender.
Musical director CJ Johnson lead a tight band that managed to catch up with dropped musical cues that were evidently caused by sound issues. It was a shame, however, that the band sounded like it was being streamed from a bathroom four blocks away.
Lighting and set were quite bland, with nothing but a black curtain acting as a backdrop for most of the show. The end of act one however, was very effective, leaving me to wish that the lighting designer used more interesting colours throughout the rest of the show like were used in that scene.
Choreographer Joel Anderson gave numbers life and energy that for the most part was quite effective. It would perhaps have been more effective in ‘The Cop Song’ that instead of scattering the cast throughout the audience, the cast were left on stage. The scattering meant that the effect of all of the torch formations and movements was lost which was a shame given the bits I could see looked quite effective. This aside, big ensemble numbers such as ‘Mr. Cladwell’ and ‘Snuff That Girl’ were a total hit with the audience.
Direction was a bit clunky, with Dylan trying to transform a proscenium arch theatre into an almost theatre-in-the-round which wasn’t entirely successful in ensemble numbers where you couldn’t see everybody (because they were behind you) and there was a few moments of thumping feet behind me that distracted from what was happening on stage. It was refreshing to see a cast that understood how to deliver this style of comedy properly and it was clear that was a result of a combination of actor instinct, and just downright good direction.
Student theatre is an environment where lots of students ‘give it a go’. And that’s what is so exciting about seeing shows with such large ensembles such as Urinetown. This ensemble was so committed to the style and shtick and it is a total credit to them for pulling it off. Congratulations to all.