According to The Bible, “The love of money is the root of all evil” which is demonstrated and explored in the current concert-style musical, “Urinetown,” playing at Musical Theater Heritage in Kansas City’s Crown Center through Nov. 22.
“Urinetown,” music and lyrics by Mark Hollman and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis sends a strong message how a water shortage coupled with financial greed and avarice corrupt the powerful and destroy the weak and poor in a city where residents must pay for the privilege of using a public toilet. Toilets in each house are long gone and only paid public facilities exist now. Use of bushes and areas other than the public pay toilets causes perpetrators to face arrest and relocation in what is called Urinetown.
The show contains many similarities to other musicals, and a pre-show introduction by MTH founder George Harter helps the audience know some of the shows that are included and not-specifically referenced in “Urinetown” but their influences can be seen. He mentioned a line that point toward The Wizard of Oz. Other show that might sound similar are “West Side Story,” Les Miz,” “Chicago,” “A Chorus Line,” “Annie,” and more.
One of the main characters, Little Sally appears to be an all-to wise street urchin like a Little Orphan Annie. Lockstock ,the narrator has shades of Javer in “Les Miz” and also the narrator of “Cabaret.” A jazz sequence in Act II reminds of “West Side Story,” Harter said. “Urinetown” makes a statement about money and political corruption while simultaneously spoofing the plots of other famous shows.
Without Harter’s intro, some may not have recognized th other musical influences in “Urinetown.” The show is a musical-comedy, but it is a dark musical-comedy and not the typical happily-ever-after musical. “Urinetown” advances the idea that money corrupts and continues to create the need for more money and more corruption. The show is a testament to the rich and powerful. The show also examines the other extreme of no government and no regulations. A vicious cycle repeats if guidelines are not maintained.
For the MTH show, the best vocals in Kansas City become standard and expected. “Urinetown” does not fail in this aspect. The cast possesses fabulous voices, powerful and clear. Being a concert-style format, all microphones carefully capture all dialogue and lyrics. By eliminating sets, set changes, entrances and exits, the focus comes to the story-line, actors, and music. MTH again scores a TKO with “Urinetown.”
Even though the cast is spectacular, the performance of Don Richard stands clearly above the rest. As Lockstock, he excels with his characterization, delivery, expressions, gait, body stance, and all the nuances that make his performance special. Richard does not miss on giving humor to the dialogue as the narrator. He definitely leads the cast with the strongest performance in the show.
Creative team: George Harter, executive director; Sarah Crawford, director and musical director; Jeremy Watson, conductor; Chad Gerlt, George Harter, Sarah Crawford, producers; Shane Rowse, lighting design; John Hileman, sound design; Chad Gerlt, set design; Audra Viele, stage manager; Nick Perry, choreographer, props.
The cast is: Jeff Berger as officer Barel, Janette Bonjour as Josephine as ‘Old Ma’ Strong, Tyler Fromson as Bobby Strong, Ryan Hruza as Old Man Strong, Natalie Merola as Little Sally, Kip Niven as Cladwell, Don Richard as Officer Lockstock, Andrew Schmidt as Senator Fipp, Julie Shaw as Penywise, Bob Wearing as Mr. McQueen, Janet Wiggins as Hope Cladwell. The ensemble is: Andrea Boswell-Burns, Blane Brungardt, Shelby Floyd, Adam Henry, Lindsay James, Maggie Marx.
The band is: Jeremy Watson, piano; Ben Cooper, trombone; Russell Thorpe, reeds; Ron Ernst, drums; and Dave Wasecha, bass. Watson serves as conductor for “Urinetown.”
For MTH, “Urinetown” continues through Nov. 22. Crowds have been substantial and center sections mostly full. Advance ticketing is recommended. For tickets, contact the Musical Theater Heritage website. Other information and future shows can be seen and tickets ordered via the website as well.