Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
To launch their 89th season, Flint Community Players exploded onto the stage Thursday with a terrific production of the oddly relative Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’ Tony Award-winning show Urinetown the Musical. Quirky, darkly comic with a host of musical numbers that spoof some well-known shows, this is one to definitely see this fall!
As director Shelby L. Coleman says in the program, this is “a musical about toilets. Bathrooms. Urine.” But she also points out “this piece is so much more than ‘just another musical’”. Really, folks, it will have you laughing, swaying, tapping your toes, and even considering weighty issues like the danger of inordinate power and the threat of revolution it can bring.
Set in a futuristic setting where water has become so scarce that it must be regulated and controlled, the populace now has to pay dearly for a place to pee. Infractions cause arrest and the exile of the culprit to Urinetown, a place from which no one returns.
An extremely talented and vocally adept cast augments this storyline. Songs that parody the likes of West Side Story, The Threepenny Opera, and Les Miserables are delivered with gusto and talent that rivals anything you’ll see professionally. Among the strongest voices were Steve Morgan as Officer Lockstock, Kim Heath Streby as Penelope Pennywise, Britton Paige as Bobby Strong and Annadelle Kimber as Hope Cladwell.
Morgan’s “Cop Song” duet with Kyle Clark as Officer Barrell lit up the first act and paved the way for a stirring Les Miserable– style anthem as the people decide to revolt. Unfortunately, Thursday night’s first act found the onstage orchestra far louder than the singers therefore rendering most of the lyrics unintelligible. That problem was happily overcome in Act 2 with an increased volume for the actors’ body microphones.
Act II highlights included Paige and the chorus with the revival-style “Run, Freedom, Run” and Kimber and the chorus belting the bluesy “I See A River” to restore faith in the survival of good over greed… well, for a little while anyway.
We should mention Kristen Carter for her strong vocals and endearing portrayal of Little Sally. The sad news fell to her near the end with “Tell Her I Love Her”, but her constant interaction with Morgan is fun to watch.
The onstage orchestra directed by Desmond Sheppard on keyboards and including Will Mintline on percussion, Aaron Weeks on reeds and Keith Fleetwood on bass is musically very competent. Still, they did have a hard time scaling back their sound when so close to the singers.
Choreography by Lucas Moquin was outstanding in this show! Some of the best we’ve seen in a long time. The set by Rick Doll and Coleman was versatile and perfectly designed to effuse the dark and sultry existence most had to endure. A subtle nod to Flint can be seen in the portion of an untitled but clearly Vehicle City arch that sits atop the second story crosswalk.
Overall, even though the plot is bizarre and the themes often crude, there was an amazing energy that blasted across the footlights Thursday to engulf the audience as we mentally joined the Urinetown rabble in their cause. Go see it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Urinetown continues at the Flint Community Players’ Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy. Flint, MI 48507 through September 24. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com