Saturday, September 17, 2016

Urinetown: The Musical

 Had a wonderful time at Constellation Theater Company's production of "Urinetown: The Musical". It was my first visit to one of their shows Last year they won more Helen Hayes awards in the Musical Theater categories with their production of "Avenue Q" than any other production, so they were high on my list of groups I wanted to experience.
 The production was staged in a storefront (and back) theater called the Source on 14th Street just south of U Street in the heart of the U Street Corridor. The theater itself is very small! Seats all of 122 people in 9 rows that rise rather steeply with one narrow middle aisle. I sat one seat off the aisle in row 4 from the stage, stage right. Everything in the space is negotiable, and the lovely woman I perchance to sit next to was, as luck would have it, a season ticket holder and a well-font of information. She said that the interior never looks the same for any two productions. For this production is was so "intimately" proportioned that I honestly wondered how any fire marshall would have approved the space for public occupancy. Ergo, my one and only caveat to this perfectly delightful production--not for the claustrophobic!

"Urinetown: The Musical" was also itself a revelation to me knowing virtually nothing about it short of the fact that it won Tony's on Broadway. It's a rather conventional farce with plenty of post-modern tragedy and irony about a time when the world's water is all underground and you have to pay to pee! Oh, and I lied, there is another caveat. Use the restroom before the show starts. You literally can't leave during the show because the only way out is across the stage space that is full of singing and dancing actors--AND ALL THEY TALK AND SING ABOUT IS PEEING! So if you think you might have to go, GO! 'cause 15 minutes in--you will be condition to have to go.

Now, all the preliminary stuff aside: I LOVED IT! The cast is pitch perfect and it's truly an ensemble piece. My favorites were Officer Lockstock (Matt Dewberry) --whose partner is Officer Barrel--who acts as the show's narrator and came out and engaged the audience during intermission to the delight of everyone not standing in line for one of the two unisex bathrooms! And Bobby Strong (Vaughn Ryan Middler) the shows protagonist, doomed hero. And not surprisingly, Mr. Middler was one of the winner's of a Helen Hayes award for his role in their production of "Avenue Q". Honorable mentions go to the father/daughter team of Caldwell B. Caldwell (Niklas Aliff) and Hope Caldwell (Katie Keyser). All of the actors were new to me with the exception of David Landstrom who performed in the ensemble, and whom I had seen in three consecutive productions at Olney Theater Center. It is a well conceived production with every detail finely accounted for from costumes to choreography to the live pit orchestra who were wonderfully concealed by the simple and versatile sets.

If you can weather the small space and the constant urge to pee, then this is the perfect production for the budget conscious lover of musical theater.

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