Sunday, May 22, 2016

Urinetown - DalekoArts: A Visual Review

Hi there! When I heard that DalekoArts--a lovely little theater in New Prague--was presenting Urinetown as the last show of their fourth season (running through June 12), I was intrigued. 

I have loved Urinetown for ages, but haven't seen a production yet that lives up to the show. I admire director Joshua Campbell's work (loved Calvin Berger at Minneapolis Musical Theatre), but I hate to get too excited.

Urinetown (improbably) premiered on Broadway in 2001. With music by Mark Hollmann, lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and book by Kotis, Urinetown is a marvelously clever musical with gorgeous songs and hilarious lines. Here's the story from the Director's Note:
In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity's most basic needs. Amid the people, a hero decides he's had enough, and plans a revolution to lead them all to freedom!
So naturally, we filled the car with theaterlovers and headed down to New Prague.

Maybe it was more like this:

Anyhoo, we got to New Prague and DalekoArts safely and without incident. We quickly got over the hilarious irony of DalekoArts having just one bathroom.

We sat in the front row of this intimate theater. I mean, we were CLOSE.

Sometimes being too close at a musical can be a bit unnerving. And sometimes, as in this case ... it's amazing.

The show started, and I was like:

Why did I love it so?

From the first notes of the orchestra (beautifully led by musical director Anthony J. Sofie) and the tumbleweed that 'rolled' across the stage in a visual joke that set the tone immediately for the evening. That tone? Uproariously hilarious.

This production is practically perfect in every way. And the most important way is the tone. 

If you're going to do Urinetown, you have to do it right, and dang, they do it right. You have to be sincere to sell this nutty show completely. You need to honor the hilarious lines and the fantastic and rousing melodies of the musical numbers at the same time that you are telling a story that is more than a little on the distasteful side. 

And this production is TIGHT. Small space, smallish cast, and they don't miss a beat. Joshua Campbell and the cast add so much humor to an already hilarious show--they don't miss any opportunities to turn it up to, say, eleven. 

Can we talk about this cast? 

Ben Thietje as Bobby Strong is sincere, sweet and a little dim. Kendall Anne Thompson possesses one hell of a voice but still manages to portray Hope Cladwell with the right amount of (lack of?) depth. Paul Reyburn as Caldwell B. Cladwell, Kate Beahen as Penelope Pennywise, and Tom Karki as Officer Lockstock all portray their characters perfectly. Kim Kivens, as Little Sally? I didn't think that role could get any funnier, and yet, Kivens makes it even more bananas.

And let's not forget the ensemble.They are all so good, you literally don't know where to look.

I mean, this ensemble. COME ON. Five actors (Christine Karki, Mary Palazzolo-Rudquist, Beth Leona King, Zakary Morton, and Keith Hovis) who play sixteen characters. Without a hitch. The costume changes are amazing. No sooner does one of the actors head offstage that they come back as a completely different character.

Their voices are fantastic together. I don't think a cast three times their size could sound as amazing as they did. (Again, props to musical director Anthony J. Sofie.) I have to give a super special shoutout to Zakary Morton for his completely gonzo acting and amazing dance skills. And another to Keith Hovis for his amazingly quick changes--he is nearly unrecognizable when changing characters. I would go back to New Prague in a heartbeat just to see him as "Robby" in the "Snuff That Girl" scene. You'll know why if you see it.

And the dancing, choreographed by Erin Sheppard? Astonishing, especially given that the stage is rather petite.

In short, this show is amazing. You should see it. It will make you happy.

The musical theater references are all beautifully done, and it will make you love musical theater EVEN MORE than you do (which I assume you do, if you've actually read this far and recognize all of the gifs here.) 

Congrats on an amazing production, DalekoArts.

I realize that, clearly, I'm going to need to subscribe to DalekoArts new season.

March yourself down to New Prague and see this amazing show.

If you can't make it, that's fine.

In all seriousness, this show is bonkers and amazing and you should go see it. If I'd written a straight-up review of this show, it would have consisted of even more uses of the words "perfect","hilarious" and "beautiful" and eventually faded off into me insisting, "Just go see it! Dang it!" 

I'll come with you! Let's run like this!

(Thanks to Playbill on Tumblr for the fab gifs.)