It’s Just Great That They’re Even Doing It
This month Skylight Music Theatre opens that delightfully bizarre chimera of a contemporary theatrical product as it presents Urinetown: The Musical. It’s a feel-good dystopian socio-political musical that manages to also cast a comic glance at issues of ecological collapse due to global drought. Oh: And it spoofs other musicals too. Really it’s pretty remarkable that a show this weird would ever have gotten produced in the first place. The Skylight has accomplished something in simply having chosen to produce something this cool.
The Officer Is Your Friend Narrator
Rick Pendzich opens the show as charming jackbooted police thug Officer Lockstock. He can be found walking the house nodding to attendees as he regards the attended through mirrored shades prior to the show. Pendzich nails the precise comedy of the cheerfully corrupt totalitarian thuggery that serves as an endlessly self-referential narrator who lives in a fourth wall that he’s constantly breaking. Pendzich has a clever sense of humor that a role like this is absolutely perfect for.
Only Love Pads the Show
Yes: It’s the story of a popular revolution against a totalitarian regime that makes people pay every time they use a toilet.
But: There’s a really cute and sweetly doomed love story at the center of it all.
Rachael Zientek is brilliantly articulate on a comic level in the role of Hope Cladwell--the daughter of Trumpian autocratic corporate despot Caldwell B. Cladwell (the satirically villainous Steven M. Koehler) who runs the sinisterly ubiquitous Urine Good Company. On her way in to work for the first time since graduating the most expensive university in the world, she runs into a handsome guy who works for a small pay restroom. The suitably lead-worthy Lucas Pastrana ultimately leads the revolution against UGC. He and his burgeoning love for Hope complicate matters in a cleverly funny romance. Zientek is sweet and optimistic with such intensity that it becomes positively sinister by the end of the show when the revolution actually takes hold.
And There Are Other People Here Too
I’m about 350 words into the review when I finally get a chance to mention that Doug Jarecki is in the show. He’s Senator Fipp--a comically awkward Ted Cruz of a guy who serves the UGC. Jarecki is great with what little he’s given here. That someone of Jarecki’s talent would wind up around the edges of the show is testament to just how much talent there IS here. Amber Smith is good in just about anything, but here she’s fantastic. With cold, passionate...angular intensity she plays Penelope Pennywise--the woman who runs the restroom that employs the male romantic lead. Smith leans-in to the comedy she’s given with a scalpel’s precision. He’s not given nearly as many moments, but James Carrington manages a very similarly comic precision in more than a few moments as UGC corporate underling Mr. McQueen. And then there’s Michael Stebbins as a crazy, old one-eyed revolutionary and Steven M Koehler and on and on...the Skylight is working with a really, really great cast here and they’re doing good things with it. Director Ray Jivoff has done a really good job of bringing it all together. I'd been kind of underwhelmed when I'd seen the show years ago on its national tour. The huge space of the Milwaukee Theatre just drowns everything...and people still pay ridiculous prices for those touring shows...ugh...don't see whatever's casually rolling through town right now. See THIS. It's important. Jivoff and company manage to give the relatively small stage main stage at the Broadway Theatre Center a feeling of immensity that doesn't compromise the intimacy of a huge show in a cozy space. Jivoff has been doing this for years...he really knows what fits onstage here and he does a very clever job of getting it all balanced in just the right way.
That Set, Though...Wow...The Earth In The Toilet and Everything
Scenic Director Brandon Kirkham is given an opportunity to get really weird here and he makes quite an impression with it. That skyline off in the distance feels very iconic with its ever-present UGC logo beaming out from atop it all. Kirkham manages to maintain this bombastic spoof-y immensity about everything onstage. Nowhere is this more present than at the desk of Caldwell B. Cladwell. Nearly every time the opulent desk glides out onstage, a massive wall descends that feels like it’s at least 200 stories tall.
And that cleverly streamlined UGC logo at the top of it all: totally looks like a floor plan view of a toilet with the globe of the earth in the bowl ready to be flushed. I love that. I love how brilliant that is given that this IS ultimately a story about people who are all far too distracted to notice that the world is falling apart ecologically. The meta-art of the fact that we’re all attending a big, flashy Broadway-style musical that only casually glances in the direction of things that we all really, really need to be addressing is all the more brilliant. It’ll give some of us something to chuckle about as the world dies from the coming global drought. Smile: it’s only the end of the world.
Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Urinetown: The Musical runs through June 10th at The Cabot Theatre in The Broadway Theatre Complex on 158 N. Broadway. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800 or visit the Skylight Online.
"The situation is quite critical. The water table is dropping all over the world. There’s not an infinite supply of water.”
--Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.