North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre CAST (Challenging Artistic Summer Theatre) students spend each summer building and producing a musical for their "graduation." This summer's production is Urinetown, a show by Mark Hollman (music and lyrics) and Greg Kotis (book and lyrics) that is known for its broad comedy, scripted gags, and energetic libretto.
Twenty-five students make up the cast, which is divided roughly into two groups: The Staff of Urine Good Company (UGC) and The Poor. The Poor figure prominently in this musical because UGC was created to regulate the public utilities (read: restrooms) that now charge a fee to pee, and it is The Poor who are the hardest hit in the town's severe water shortage. There are no more private facilities; it is now a "Privilege to Pee" (sung by Mila Bolash as Penelope Pennywise). Despite this seeming affront to dignity, The Poor are kept in check by the threat of being hauled off to Urinetown, a penal colony where those who will not pay to pee must suffer.
The staff at UGC are led by President Caldwell B. Cladwell (TJ Broadhurst). The Poor, once they get organized, are led by Bobby Strong (Nicky Taylor). Strong is a dreamer who believes in the freedom "2 P 4 Free." For his rabblerousing he has been declared an outlaw by UGC. While the cops prowl the city to seek him out, The Poor are faced with yet another rate hike by UGC and are ready to revolt. Meanwhile, Hope Cladwell (Sabrina Palazzo) is walking home after her first day of work at her father's company and meets Bobby. The two have a heart-to-heart wherein Hope tells Bobby to always be true to his dreams. Since neither knows the other's "true identity," they fall in love. Bobby returns to his rebels and entreats them to be true to their cause. The next day, Hope returns to work and sees her father for the miser he really is just before the rebels storm the gates and kidnap Hope in an effort to get Cladwell to ease up on his evil fees. A general melee ensues, as Hope is spirited away by The Poor while The Staff search frantically to find her.
Throughout the show, Officer Lockstock talks offhandedly to his friend Little Sally (Miranda Curtis) about life in the town and the true meaning of things. Thus in a candid chat before the end of Act I we learn that there really is no Urinetown. Those who are "taken away" to this fictional place are actually killed, and that this really isn't meant to be a happy musical. Little Sally rebels at this, and wonders out loud why the music is so happy?!
Director Pete Comperatore has worked closely with choreographer Brianna Gilmore to keep things flowing smoothly onstage while creating two entirely different dance sequences, that which occupies The Poor on one hand and that which keeps the Staff busy on the other. The Poor and The Staff rarely interact with one another, but when these two groups combine, in such numbers as the Act I finale, there is a finely controlled chaos on stage. The whole is a laugh riot, because so many sight gags and jokes appear constantly.
The music is handled admirably by musical director Craig Johnson on keyboards, with Brendan Cassidy on drums, and Brenna Curtis on electric bass. When this trio combines with the full contingent of twenty-five voices, it makes a really big noise, and fills the theater with a tremendous, enthusiastic energy.
Production designer/costumer Sally Kinka leaves her mark on the show with a brilliantly designed set and costumes that range from the smart and sassy uniforms of UGC, to the bleak and tawdry clothing worn by the bedraggled Poor. Her hand is also seen in the scattering of signs about the set, from the dark graphic "Public Facility #9" to the spray-painted anthem "Occupy Urinetown!" This combination of minutiae on set and the ensemble dance sequences always give the viewer a galaxy of new things to see and enjoy, while the authors' insistence on tongue-in-cheek reality keeps us guessing and enthralled.
NRACT and CAST have brought this crazy musical to a dynamic life, breathing energy into these songs and dances and keeping the enthusiasm at a maximum. The opening night audience was full to bursting, happy to go on the outre trip that the cast took them on. If opening night was any indication, this show may already be a sellout. The energetic students of CAST have brought a truly unique experience to the stage with Urinetown!
Urinetown continues through Sunday, August 9. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.