book and lyrics by Greg Kotis music and lyrics by Mark Holimann.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Street SW1E 5JA to 3 May 2014.
Mon- Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: William Russell 13 March.
Splendid musical is far from a catastrophe.
It has taken thirteen years for this splendid musical, which ran three years on Broadway, to come here and that title has to be the reason. The score is full of rousing Broadway tunes, the book is witty, the green message impeccably correct, the singing of the highest order, and director Jamie Lloyd stages it with tremendous panache. It also has one of the strongest casts assembled for a musical in ages.
The plot is based on Thomas Malthus’s theory, which he developed in the mid 19th-century, that mankind would thrive until the resources he was exploiting started to run out. After that catastrophe water is so scarce people are not allowed to flush the toilet but must use public urinals.
As is the way of capitalism, those who run the world make money out of this by continually putting up the cost of spending a penny and dispatching those who offend to somewhere known as Urinetown, from whence nobody comes back.
It is Brechtian, with one of the cops who enforces rules as laid down by big boss Caldwell B. Gladwell explaining what is going on from time to time, and reminding us repeatedly that this is a musical with a difference.
Actually the difference amounts to a lot of blood and no happy ending. As Bobby Strong, the toilet assistant who leads the revolution of ordinary folk, Richard Fleeshman is in show-stopping form; he gets tremendous support from Simon Paisley Day as a splendidly greedy Gladwell, Jenna Russell as Mrs Pennywise, his boss at the toilets, Karis Jack as Little Sally, a street-urchin with a mind of her own, and Rosanna Hyland as Gladwell’s daughter, who falls in love with Bobby and defies her dad.
As with all revolutions, things go wrong and while the water does eventually flow freely it does not alter the fact that it is running-out.
The show fits the St James auditorium perfectly and there is a terrific orchestra belting out the tunes – harking back to all sorts of Broadway shows, which enhances the delights on offer.
But that title remains a problem.
Little Becky Two Shoes/Mrs Millenium: Kate Bernstein.
Mr McQueen: Marc Elliott.
Old Man Strong/ Hot Blades Harry: Cory English.
Bobby Strong: Richard Fleeshman.
Soppy Sue: Madeleine Harland.
Hope Gladwell: Rosanna Hyland.
Little Sally: Karis Jack.
Old Woman/ Josephine Strong: Julie Jupp.
Billy Boy Hill/UGC Executive: Aaron Lee Lambert.
Senator Fipp: Mark Meadows.
Tiny Tom/ Dr Billeaux: Jeff Nicholson.
Caldwell B Gladwell: Simon Paisley Day.
Officer Barrel: Adam Pierce.
Penelope Pennywise: Jenna Russell.
Robbie The Stockfish/ UGC Executive: Matthew Seadon-Young.
Officer Lockstock: Jonathan Slinger.
Swing & Dance Captain: Chris Bennett.
Swing/Fight Captain/Assistant Dance captain: Charlotte Scott.
Swings: Alasdair Buchan, Joel Montague, Jo Napthine.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Adam Silverman.
Sound: Terry Jardine & Nicj Lidster for Autograph Sound.
Orchestrator: Bruce Coughlin.
Musical Supervisor/Director: Alan Williams.
Choreographer: Ann Yee.
Fight director: Kate Waters.