To pee or not to pee….that is the question.
To be more accurate, where to pee and whether you can afford it are the real questions posed in the funny production of “Urinetown, The Musical” being performed this week at the Okoboji Summer Theatre. I applaud the powers that be in the OST organization for their courage in bringing this Tony-award winning play to a rather conservative Midwest audience.
“Urinetown, The Musical” is not primarily about urination. That is just the catalyst for the big picture they are trying to paint for us about common decency, environmental issues and respect for one another. The ending is not what you would expect but the message is loud and clear. I must admit the ending caught me by surprise.
The setting is a deep slum area of a big city where many homeless people exist and are being charged to use the public restrooms. The set, designed by Brandon PT Davis, was perfect in its simplicity and starkness, enhanced by the lighting designed by Savannah Bell. Their teamwork was perfect for this production.
Costume designer Cami Huebert and her able assistants MJ Duguay and Kaisley Williams had to dig into the bottom of some shelter barrels to find the attire for a large cast of 24 people. Bravo!
This is the fifth time that Paul Finnochiaro has made the trip to Okoboji to direct a production. He is the professor of theatre and dance at the University of Tampa. He told me he was thrilled to have such a large number of talented students and interns to work with…and work them, he did.
“Unrinetown” is a musical filled with lively music and more than 50 percent of the action on stage is choreographed. He worked wonders with that many people dancing on such a small stage. I have no doubt those students learned much from this talented director/choreographer. Bravo!
The cast was large and a joy to watch. We laughed at their facial expressions and body language as well as the clever dialogue.
Cristian Nieves was so funny as Officer Lockstock. He has the body language/facial expression skill perfected. He also sings very well. Bravo!
The love story part of the musical involved Hope Cladwell, portrayed by Rachel Ives, and Bobby Strong, played by Kabir Gandhi. They played so well off each other and were so very good in all aspects of their respective roles. Bravo!
OST veteran actor Rob Doyen brought the character of Caldwell Cladwell to us. (Say that name three times quickly!) Cladwell is a pompous butt, and you hate him from beginning to end. That is a testament to Doyen’s acting and singing skills. Bravo!
I really enjoyed the performances of Harper Bartel as Little Sally and Raegan Grisolano as Penelope Pennywise. Bartel has a singing voice to be envied by everyone and Grisolano gave her character some much needed depth. Bravo!
Danielle Simpson played Senator Fipp. Facial expression is a vital tool to any role an actor plays. She wore a mask through the entire show so her rather stiff body language was lost and her role was not as vital to the story as it could have been. The mask was an unfortunate choice.
The rest of the cast were so good in their portrayals of either law enforcement or homeless people. They did the pee-pee dance we all have had to do at one time or another very believably. It was really funny to watch.
Most of us are not familiar with the music composed by Mark Hollman but it is extremely good and fun to listen to. I understand why he won a Tony for it. I loved the cast’s rendition of “Run Freedom Run.” The talent, harmonizing quality and choreography of that number alone was worth the ticket price. I want to see them do that song again!
If you want to spend an evening listening to great music, watch first rate performances by highly talented actor-singers and indulge in much laughter, don’t miss this one. You can tell by the large number of bravos that this is a good one (in spite of the subject matter). “Urinetown, The Musical” will be performed each evening through Sunday with a matinee on Saturday afternoon as well.
Thank you to everyone at OST for a spectacular summer of great live theatre. We missed you last year and are so grateful you came back this year. I am not alone in saying I am really looking forward to Summer 2022!