From Culture Vulture Victoria
by Chris Felling
Urinetown comes courtesy of the SMUS Theatre Intensive. It’s an unauditioned high school cast who, while still green, shows a lot of promise. The script is a mix of Broadway cheese and the bleakest, darkest, snarkiest political satire imaginable; the corrupt battle the naive until everyone dies of thirst. And thankfully, pee puns are kept to a tasteful minimum.
The extremely short rehearsal time shows mostly in blocking and choreography. Let’s be honest, though: memorizing 80 minutes of Broadway in under two weeks is work enough. Whether you’d be more impressed by expertly polished movements than by the ambitious choice of script is your call. Think of Urinetown like punk rock: carried first and foremost by enthusiasm, from both audience and cast. When these kids nail it, they nail it. For me, it’s interesting enough to see art—and artists—in progress. I bet Fringe performers could get a good nostalgic kick out of Urinetown. Oh, and this seems to be as good a place as any to say that Cormac O’Brian has a future in theatre.
From B Channel News (****)
by Ed Sum
Urinetown couldn’t be any more bustling on opening night and if anyone needed to go, nobody left. That’s part of the punch line, and also the humour of this play. Although the auditorium in St. Michaels University School is small, it works in favour of putting audiences in the thick of the plot. The young cast makes use of the entire theatre space to perform their play.
Most of these new performers are newcomers to the world of musical theatre, and they take on different roles depending on the night of the performance. The St. Michaels University School Music Intensive Theatre program exists to teach students the ropes and no previous experience is required. If there were any hiccups or opening night jitters, they honestly have to be excused. By the second act, the students pulled through and they couldn’t be any more solid. When the light of hope shines, so does the tale.
In Urinetown, the opening narrative explains that a 20-year drought has caused problems. The sewer system is impossible to maintain and, as a result, private toilets are no longer sanctioned and rationing public facilities has begun. Citizens have to pay to use the public facilities, but after one protest by Old Man Strong, he gets taken away much to the sadness of his son, young Bobby (Lindon Carter). He tries to change the system, but that’s going to be difficult. He falls for Hope (Ellen Law), the daughter of Caldwell (Andrew Taylor), who runs the Urine Good Company (UGC).
As the revolutionaries sing their way into conflict, what happens next is almost unexpected. This play is certainly one to remember because of its satirical nature—not only does it poke fun at other musical plays like Les Misérables but also it takes a hard look at municipal politics. On the flipside are the songs that move the plot forward. They’re well done, and when they break out into gospels, “Run! Freedom, Run!” (sung by Bobby and the Cast) has to be the highlight of the evening.
Other inspiring tunes include “Don’t Be the Bunny,” performed by Caldwell and the staff of the UGC. The songs these young performers sing show that this theatre’s natural acoustics can amplify their voice. They have to project otherwise their song won’t be heard.
Zach Santellion’s nasally voice makes his vocals stand out. But if there’s ever a true Broadway moment, that has to be in the harmonies produced by Little Sally (Elina Parker) when she sings about Bobby (Carter). Their ghostly duet inspired a little tear and at the finale, to hear Loch Lomond (“I See A River” in the play) sung differently only underscores the dark irony of this play. Victory isn’t always as cut up as it should be, even when the good guy wins.