The next batch of WAAPA Music Theatre graduates are just about cooked and ready to go. The 3rd Year MT kids have done a stellar job in presenting Urinetown: the musical, a satire of corporate greed and human nature.
Despite what was no doubt a demanding rehearsal period and production week, each of the performer’s voices was strong and secure with not a hint of strain or tiredness. Their commitment to the choreography and character was also befitting a professional standard.
Inspired by the work of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, Urinetown by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, is akin to the Epic Theatre genre which highlights the constructed nature of the theatrical event in an attempt to emotionally disengage the audience, so that they can face the presented issues more objectively. It often deals with themes catastrophic in nature, and we were reminded by our narrator Officer Lockstock (played by Chris Wilcox) that this was "not a happy musical”.
The premise is that there is a water shortage and as a result, all toilets have been banned so as to control the town’s use of the precious commodity. Public amenities are controlled and any secretive ablutions in the bushes at night time are a crime punishable by banishment to the metaphorical Urinetown (which is actually just being pushed off a building to one’s death).
Director, James Millar had the actors engaging with the audience, breaking the fourth wall and using multiple entrances and performance levels. His direction was interesting, creative and made full use of having the audience on three sides of The Roundhouse theatre space.
Musical Director David King and his orchestra were solid as a rock and the choreography by Bernie Bernard was perfectly suited to the eclectic mix of musical and dance styles which ranged from Broadway, Jazz and Gospel to a tiny smidgen of ballet.
Jacob Dibb as the lead character Bobby Strong was boundless in energy and endearing in character. He had to master a challenging range vocally and did so with conviction.
Chris Wilcox as Officer Lockstock, the narrator, made the most of his punchlines with comic timing and subtle physical expressions. The lower tones in his voice were just delightful and complimentary to the rest of the cast. Little Sally (Taryn Ryan) had somewhat of a narrative role as well and I think her character represented the innocent, redemptive qualities of humanity. Ryan played the age of this sweet little girl quite beautifully.
Megan Kozak was the vocal powerhouse of the evening as Penelope Pennywise. Her featured song “It’s a Privilege to Pee” was a highlight of the show and she made it look so easy.
There were no weak links in the ensemble cast of leads and minor characters. Each of the performers on stage claimed their space and owned their characters from start to finish. The choral singing was just spectacular although there were a few minor intermittent problems with microphones and sound mixing that meant we didn’t always get the best of the dialogue and effect of the harmonies.
The humour was witty and littered throughout, with a few spectacular moments of shock value thrown in. The commitment from the cast, and costume designers became more evident toward the end of the musical and I hope they all treated themselves to a nice shower after the show.
music and lyrics Mark Hollmann | book and lyrics Greg Kotis
Director James Millar
Venue: Roundhouse Theatre
Dates: 14 – 21 March, 2015
Tickets: $45 – $40
Performed by 3rd Year MusicTheatre students