Bad subject matter and a bad title can kill a show pretty good, we were warned at the beginning of the night, and surely the audience was expecting the worst from a show called “Urinetown.” Luckily, Langley High School’s energetic cast delivered a charming and hilarious romp through a world where water has become so scarce that the people are forced to pay to pee.
“Urinetown” first debuted at the New York Fringe Festival and quickly made its way to Broadway, surprising everyone by winning three Tony Awards. The musical recounts the epic battle of the Rebel Poor, under the leadership of idealistic Bobby Strong (Jack Marsh), against evil capitalist pig Caldwell B. Cladwell (Peter Wiese), owner of Urine Good Company, the corporation that has put into place the pee fees. The show is narrated by Officers Lockstock and Barrel who are in charge of sending “guilty pee-ers” to Urinetown, a place, we are told, “filled with symbolism and things like that.” It is only in act two that we find out that Urinetown (the place, not the musical) is, in fact, death, and the corrupt officers have been throwing people off buildings for years.
Jack Marsh as our hero Bobby Strong and Maddie Wise as Hope Cladwell, the delightful bubblehead with a heart of gold, perfectly displayed the innocence of their forbidden love, impressing the crowd with their heartwarming harmonies. Peter Wiese as the dishonest mogul stole the show with his amazing energy, exaggerated double-takes, and charming soft-shoe solos.
Lead rebels Little Sally (Chelsea Raitor) and Hot Blades Harry (Roman Voytko Barrosse) consistently kept in character even when the ensemble’s energy lagged. Student choreographer Katie Leslie created simple, appropriately campy routines that highlighted the absurdity of the show’s premise. One standout dancer was ensemble member Takuma Koide who always seemed to know exactly what he was doing and attacked his steps with admirable intensity.
While several transitions between scenes took a bit too long, the lighting crew redeemed themselves with some rather difficult follow-spotting, including the lighting of various actors in the aisles, and the affective use of strobe lights to create an effect of falling from a roof. Ensemble costumes in shades of beige made a great background for the more vibrant outfits of the leads. These, combined with the grungy, industrial set pieces painted a vivid picture of the inner workings of Urinetown.
Langley’s joyous cast showed a deep understanding of the complexities of the play, milking the references to other musicals for all they were worth. Their portrayal of the inconvenient truth that is Urinetown reflected the conflict between today’s needs and our hope for the future that we are dealing with today and made the show that much more enjoyable.