WASHINGTON TERRACE — I have been told that it is a good skill to be able to laugh at yourself. The musical Urinetown is a great example of laughing at yourself for musical theater lovers. The show, currently produced at the Terrace Plaza Playhouse satirically pokes fun at musical theater, economics, politics, capitalism, bureaucracy, and so much more. Directed by Dennis Ferrin, Terrace’s production of Urinetown is full of the fun satire that makes this musical a spectacular showcase wrapped up in a crazy premise.
The story, written by Greg Kotis, follows a town so affected by drought that the powers that be have decided to charge a fee to use a bathroom. Because of this, the poor suffer and the rich get richer. Anyone who does not abide by the law gets sent to “Urinetown,” the truth of which is learned throughout the show.
The show is narrated by Officer Lockstock, played by Tyler O’ Bagy, and Lockstock is often assisted by Little Sally, played by Erin Trump. The pair take the time to explain some of the nuances of the show to the audience and serve as a great source of playful banter between each other and many other characters. Also introduced is Bobby Strong, played by Spencer Watson, who is a young idealist that gets caught up in both a revolution of the people and an immediate love with Hope Cladwell, played by Morgan Richards. Morgan is not just a sweet girl, but in typical melodramatic fashion, is also the daughter of the main villain, Mr. Cladwell, played by Darin Beardall.
Ferrin not only directed the show, but also served as set designer for the show; the set used a projection screen to great effect, a touch I can’t recall seeing previously at this venue. The impressive sound elements, designed by DD Lynch, began even before the show started, setting a proper mood for the production. Music direction by Whitney Cahoon was also extremely well done, with a particular number, “Run Freedom Run,” done partially in a capella, that showcased the immense talent of the cast. However, looking at all the technical aspects, I would have to say that the choreography was my favorite. Choreographer Emily Ferrin Checketts excelled at finding ways to use dance to help move the story and set the mood, which was most prevalent in, “Cop Song.” O’Bagy as Lockstock got to shine in this number with his strong vocals and comedic timing, and the movements designed by Checketts were visually pleasing and intriguing. The cast had perfect energy, and the addition of flashlights as part of the dancing was ingenious. Other numbers also benefited from the strong choreography, such as the opening number, “Urinetown,” the Finale to Act One, and the show Finale.
As the main villain, Beardall as Cladwell did a decent job, but struggled a bit with lines as well as the basic understanding of comedic timing. Some of the strong jokes in the show were lost and that issue could be solved with better pacing, allowing for laughs, and emphasis on certain phrases for understanding. Cladwell is a good villain character, and when certain things were revealed at the end of the show, without building a strong evil character, the investment of hatred was just not there. Additionally, some of his staff members flirt inappropriately with his daughter, and they manage to make that more goofy than creepy, which is also something that could be improved on.
Carla Zarate as Miss Pennywise, however, plays a strong villain, and her delivery of the amusing song, “Privilege to Pee,” was spot on, leaving me chuckling and also wondering just what kind of society would make people pay for a simple bodily function. The message is perhaps the best part of this show, which I have experienced every time I see it—the message behind the satire that leaves a person really considering good and evil, power and persecution, and what challenges are evident on either side. Most importantly, the show points out what happens when we decide our way is right without choosing to ever listen to the thoughts of the other side. Doing so can end in tragedy, even if it feels like the right thing. So, for a humorous story that pokes fun at every aspect imaginable while still giving reason to consider every angle of a situation, just ignore the bad title and go see Urinetown.