Theatre Review: Urinetown

Check out www.urinetown.co.uk for tickets and more details on this fantastic musical!

Check out www.urinetown.co.uk for tickets and more details on this fantastic musical!

As mentioned in the opening throes, Urinetown isn’t exactly going to be a title that drags people along to see it. Even putting fairytale chimes as Officer Lockstock (Jonathan Slinger) says the title over and over again, is not going to do anything for the name. In short, this is about as grimy as a musical will ever get. And as is also referred to multiple times, Urinetown: the musical is an interesting place to visit, but Urinetown is a place you’d never like to go.

The show is set in a dystopian future. There has been a twenty year drought and as a result people have to pay to pee. All public toilet facilities are run by a private company called Urine Good Company (UGC) and there are no private toilets. The Government is corrupt, and is accepting bribes from UGC to raise fees at the toilets. Meanwhile peeing in public results in being arrested and taken to Urinetown. Alongside this rather gloomy outlook, Officer Lockstock and Little Sally offer the audience an amusing commentary on events. This means important events such as Act 1 Finale’ are signposted, purely for the reason that ‘…this is where all the cast get to be involved and our heroes are left in a precarious situation.’ Little Sally also demands a little more exposition on the drought – but we’re informed that we can only concentrate on one thing at a time!

This is therefore an extremely dark musical with a satirical comedy overtone. Think Austin Powers with a better plot. At it’s heart lies the growing animosity at Amenity 9, alongside the growing romance between Bobby Strong (Matthew Seadon-Young) and Hope Cladwell (Rosanna Hyland). Bobby is the ‘Assistant Attendant’ at the amenity who incites a riot, whilst Hope’s Father is the Chief of UGC. Obviously this is not a good mix, and whilst the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, there is genuine sadness and horror when the audience is confronted with Urinetown. This is, therefore not the musical if you don’t like fake blood. As the show hurtles towards its dark conclusion with the riot meaning free access to the toilets, this is not the musical with the sugar coated happy ending. In fact the ending leaves us in doubt about if there was ever a ‘real’ villain in the first place though to accept this idea would simplify what is a delightfully thought provoking plot.

As you would expect, the music is amusing with such tunes as ‘It’s a Privilege to Pee’ and ‘I’m not Sorry’. The catchy Urinetown refrain that runs through will very easily be embedded on the brain by the time you leave the theatre, though it will undoubtedly have a challenge from the gospel inspired ‘Run, Freedom, Run’ – a superb number that involves the cast singing a cappella for the last section. This coincidentally received the biggest cheer of the night.

Urinetown is currently on at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftsbury Avenue (London) and box office information can be accessed from the website here. Also, if you would like a brief sneak preview of what you’re missing out on… here’s a YouTube clip showing you just what you’re missing!