URINETOWN: Music and Lyrics Mark Holllmann, Book and Lyris Greg Kotis
Old Joint Stock to 6 August
4 Tembple Street Birmingham
Runs: 2h 30m, one interval
Info: 0121 200 1892
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 29 July 2016
Good singing, full of energy, flawed piece
URINETOWN was quite a success when in premiered in 2001 in NY; in London (2014) its success was modest. This Midlands premiere works on several levels, but not on others. The singing is strong, the band excellent, it’s full of energy (too full sometimes, it could do with being contained); the direction handles the large cast well in the small space, but the melodramatic, self-referencing style is heavy-handed and far from raising the comedic stakes, rather lowers them.
URINETOWN is a tricky mix. It’s witty, extremely witty with deliciously wicked lyrics in places. The story of a mega-capitalist villain who seizes the opportunity to make a pile of dough out of people’s hardships as water dries up by forcing people to pay in order to pee, appeals to our earthy lavatorial sense of humour. On the other hand, the show has dark political connotations, both by reflecting the way the free market works only for the benefit of the few, and by reflecting current ecological concerns. The dark side is wrapped up as a glitzy musical – which is regularly referred to.
Richard Haines (Office Lockstock) has a good natural style, and his warmth helps him create a valuable bridge between us and the show-world. Karl Steele (capitalist Cladwell) is a strong performer, carrying his action through his songs. All the singing is strong and ensemble numbers come over well; it’s a pleasure to hear the parts given full value.
However, director Adam Carver’s decision to go for a heightened, melodramatic style renders the show too big for the intimate space. It has the effect of pushing us away, and we have no real world in which the incongruities can release the humour. It frequently seems over-acted.
At the end of the day it’s not certain that the piece itself holds together. And I do come down on the side of the fence that thinks the show could do with a new title.
Brooklyn Barber: Hot Blades Harry / Julie Cassidy
Jess Birtwistle: Josephine Strong
Adam Carver: Senator Fipp
Hannah Fennell: Miss McQueen
Richard Haines: Officer Lockstock
Sarah Haines : Becky Two-Shoes / Jacob Rosenthal
Mairead Mallon: Hope Cladwell
Laura Peters: Little Sally
Lizzie Robins: Penelope Pennywise
Karl Steele: Caldwell B Cladwell
Brad Walwyn: Bobby Strong
Cassie Woolridge: Miss Millennium / Soupy Sue
Gavin Whichello: Old Man Strong / Robbie The Stockfish
Adam Carver: Director / Musical Director / Designer
Sarah Haines: Choreographer / Wardrobe
Richard Haines: Producer / Set Construction
Karl Steele: Producer / Theatre Manager
Jessica Birtwistle: Social Media / Marketing
Adam Lacey: Assistant Theatre Manager
Paul Bancroft: Old Joint Stock General Manager