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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Urinetown, The Musical

Also see John's review of Big Love

Urinetown
Cherilyn Franco, Jim Ballard, Gwen Hollander, Allan Baker, Tally Sessions and Rachel Jones
The Actors Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre brings the first regional theatre production of Urinetown, The Musical to South Florida. This three-time Tony Award winning Broadway musical revolves around a town suffering from a drought that has lasted over twenty years. Private toilets are a thing of the past in the town now run by a powerful corporation, Urine Good Company, that forces its citizens to pay to use the public amenities. Here, peeing without paying is punishable by banishment to Urinetown from which no one returns. This innovative tongue-in-cheek musical is a splendid spoof on a pay-to-pee future and the American musical theatre genre.

Urinetown, The Musical is filled with situational off-beat humor. Some of the line deliveries and physical gags have the feel of a "Saturday Night, Live!" skit. The commentary in the internal narratives delivered by Officer Lockstock and Little Sally poke fun at Urinetown, The Musical itself. The cast is comprised of colorful and wacky characters like Officer Lockstock, Little Sally, Soupy Sue, Little Becky Two-Shoes, Robby the Stockfish, Hot Blades Harry and Penelope Pennywise. Amongst characters such as these arises our brave hero Bobby Strong. He leads the oppressed townspeople in a revolution against the corrupt establishment run by Caldwell B. Cladwell and his cronies. Alas he is also swept away by the pure and tenderhearted Hope Cladwell, who is Caldwell Cladwell's daughter. As in any good revolution, there is always a price to pay for freedom - and the price they all must pay may be greater than the pennies they must currently pay to pee.

Campy and irreverent, Urinetown, The Musical is surprisingly one of the best productions Actors' Playhouse has done in several years. The set is seedy and the costumes are tangibly covered in grime. The cast is balanced in acting and singing ability, and the music is cleanly and concisely played by the five-piece orchestra led by David Nagy. Choreographer Chrissi Ardito has humorously inserted choreographic take-offs of West Side Story, Fiddler On The Roof and Les Miserables. A successful production is a question of hitting upon the right chemistry for the cast and the vehicle. Director David Arisco is a wise and lucky man to have found this chemistry for Actors' Playhouse latest show.

At first glance actress Rachel Jones seems miscast as Penelope Pennywise. She looks like more of a lovely leading lady than a frowsy character actress. Her strong acting skills and powerful singing voice in "It's a Privilege To Pee" prove her to be an admirable Miss Pennywise. A graceful Gwen Hollander has the lovely singing voice of a Disney heroine, and is wonderful as Hope Cladwell. As her suitor, Bobby Strong, Talley Sessions performs with warmth and humor. A few minor note glitches on the night attended did not mar the overall quality of his fine voice.

Allan Baker is the villain you love to hate as Caldwell B. Cladwell. Jim Ballard is enjoyable as the swaggering Officer Lockstock. He is well partnered with Cherilyn Franco, who is scene-stealingly funny as the wide eyed Little Sally. The talented ensemble is amply supplied with good comic cameo bits, so everyone gets a comedic turn.

Mark Hollmann, who wrote the music and lyrics for Urinetown, The Musical, is currently writing the music and lyrics for musical adaptations of the films Soapdish and My Man Godfrey. He is also developing two new musicals with Greg Kotis titled Yeast Nation and The Man In The White Suit, which is a musical adaptation of the 1951 Alec Guinness film of the same title.

The book and lyrics for Urinetown, The Musical were written by Greg Kotis. In addition to his continued collaborations with creative partner Mark Holman, he is also the the author of the plays Pig Farm, Jobey and Katherine, Baron von Siebenburg Melts Through the Floorboards, and Give the People What They Want.

Urinetown - The Musical will be appearing through November 11, 2007 at the Actors' Playhouse. Actors' Playhouse, currently celebrating it's 20th anniversary season, is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL. Actors' Playhouse is a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. Actor's Playhouse produces musicals, comedies and children's theatre shows year round, and offers a full range of classes for all experience levels. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.

Cast
Officer Lockstock: Jim Ballard*
Little Sally: Cherilyn Franco
Penelope Pennywise: Rachel Jones*
Bobby Strong: Talley Sessions*
Hope Cladwell: Gwen Hollander*
Mr. McQueen: Mark A. Harmon
Senator Fipp: Ken Clement*
Old Man Strong/Hot Blades Harry: Christopher A. Kent*
Tiny Tom/Dr. Billeaux: Sean Russell*
Soupy Sue/Mrs. Millennium: Janet Dacal*
Little Becky/Two-Shoes/Cladwell's Secretary: Lissa Grossman
Robby the Stockfish/UCG Executive: David Perez-Ribada*
Billy Boy Bill/UCG Executive: Marcus Davis
Old Woman/Josephine Strong: Chrissi Ardito*
Officer Barrel: Damon Keith
Caldwell B. Cladwell: Alan Baker*

Crew
Director: David Arisco
Musical Director/Conductor: David Nagy
Choreography: Chrissi Ardito*
Scenic Design: Gene Seyffer
Lighting Design: Patrick Tennent
Sound Design: Lane Starratt
Costume Design: Ellis Tillman
Production Stage Manager: Carl Waisanen*

* Designates member of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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