REVIEW: “Urinetown, The Musical” — MSD Productions
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
Campy, irreverent, and filled with cheap, melodramatic bits, situational humor, and physical gags, the musical is unadulterated sheer fun from start to finish.
If you remember (and who couldn’t) earlier this spring, Marcus S. Daniel produced, directed, and starred in the highly acclaimed smash hit, “Spring Awakening,” which featured a diverse cast from all across the country.
With ground-breaking livestream theatrical editing, the critics touted it with praise like, “the most stunning example of this new art form seen so far,” and “to date, this musical may perhaps be the coolest one ever to have live-streamed into your mobile device of choice, literally taking our breath away from start to finish.”
Now, it appears Marcus S. Daniel has done it again!
Premiering yesterday, August 1st at 5:30 PST, MSD Productions presented “Urinetown, The Musical.” This three-time Tony Award winning Broadway musical revolves around a world suffering from a drought that has lasted over twenty years. Private toilets are a thing of the past in a town now run by a powerful corporation (Urine Good Company) that forces its citizens to pay to use the public amenities. Here, peeing without paying is punishable by banishment to the dreaded Urinetown.
The premise, of course, is preposterous, yet that's what gives "Urinetown" its charm. Its composers, Hollimann and Kotis (who also wrote the book), and Director Daniel revel in the ridiculous nature of the subject matter, and try to squeeze every drop of humor they can out of the idea. “Urinetown” describes itself as an "absurdist melodrama about a city in the midst of a drought so devastating that a malevolent corporation has been able to take control of all the toilet facilities. Greed, corruption and betrayal run rampant and the public desperatley seeks relief." Yes, it's all that and more.
With Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis (also "The Man in the White Suit"), the FREE show is Directed, Produced and Choreographed by Marcus S. Daniel with Assistant Direction by Romel De Silva (“Heathers” – Paramount). Musical Direction is by Heather Edwards, Video Editing is by Shara Abvabi, Sound Editing is by Pieter Orlandini, and Casting is by Lindsay Brooks CSa. Animatic Artwork by Anna 'TanfasticAnna' Mag was detailed by Ashley Arlene Nelson.
There are precisely 16 reasons why you must immediately see “Urinetown, The Musical.” In fact, recent memory provides no comparable example of a musical with such an equally dazzling and talented cast. All are in top form, each insidiously compelling and astonishingly funny.
They are, in alphabetical order, Kennen Butler (“Seussical the Musical” – Nat’l Tours; “The Who’s Tommy”) as Senator Fipp, Kevin Carranza (“Sweeney Todd;” “Rent”) as Caldwell B. Cladwell, Ethan Daniel Corbett (Films: “Blood,” Cannes Film Festival; "JUBA: The Iraqi Sniper") as Officer Lockstock, Lisa Dyson (Upcoming “Mamma Mia” for 5 Star Theatricals; “Kinky Boots”) as Josephine "Ma" Strong, Grant Hodges (“Frozen” – Disney; “Evita” – Nat’l Tour) as Mr. McQueen, Erech Holder-Hetmeyer (“Essential Voices USA w/ The Muppets” – Carnegie Hall; “Pippin”) as Robby the Stockfish, Katie McConaughy (“How The Grinch Stole Christmas” – Nat’l Tour; “My Crazy Ex” - Lifetime) as Little Becky Two-Shoes, Kelly Lester (“Cabaret;” “Halston” - Netflix) as Penelope Pennywise, Loren Lester (“Hung” – HBO 3-seasons; “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) as Joseph "Old Man" Strong, Nathan Mohebbi (“Bluff City Law” – NBC; "Masters of Sex” - Showtime) as Bobby Strong, Ashley Arlene Nelson (“Lysistrata Jones;” “Bonnie & Clyde”) as Hope Cladwell, Monika Peña (“Lizzie The Musical;” “Man of La Mancha”) as Soupy Sue, Gregory Ramsey (“On the Town;” “Hair”) as Hot Blades Harry, Garrett Russell (“La Cage Aux Folles;” “Working The Musical”) as Officer Barrel, Ashley Marie Samudio (“West Side Story;” “Peter Pan”) as Little Sally, Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan (“Romeo and Juliet;” “Flower Drum Song”) as Tiny Tom.
The show begins with its tongue-in-cheek narrator, Officer Lockstock (the priceless Ethan Daniel Corbett), explaining the plight, and how anyone refusing to use public toilets ("amenities") sanctioned by Urine Good Company (UGC) will be hauled off to Urinetown, from which no one ever returns. As he says, "not the place, of course, The Musical ... Urinetown the place is ... well, it's a place you'll hear people referring to a lot throughout the show. It's kind of a mythical place, you understand. A bad place. A place you won't see until act two. And then? Well, let's just say it's filled with symbolism and things like that." In his commanding but deceptively understated performance style, Mr. Corbett can do loads with an arched eyebrow and an evil grin.
When the poverty-stricken waif Little Sally (the brilliant Ashley Marie Samudio) says "Say, Officer Lockstock, is this where you'll tell the audience about the water storage?" Lockstock replies, "Everything in its time, Little Sally. You're too young to understand it now, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition."
Most of the play's action centers around the poorest, filthiest urinal in town, Public Amenity #9, run by custodians Penelope Pennywise (Kelly Lester, who is at once provocative and hysterical, milking every possible double-take, double-entendre, entrance and exit scene) and Bobby Strong (Nathan Mohebbi). When our brave hero, Bobby, is unexpectedly swept away by the pure and tenderhearted Hope Cladwell (Ashley Arlene Nelson), the daughter of UGC president Caldwell B. Cladwell (Kevin Carranza), he is inspired to lead a charge against the money-grabbing capitalistic men of power and proposed pee rate hike, fighting tooth and nail for the freedom to pee “wherever you like, whenever you like, for as long as you like, and with whomever you like.”
By the end of the first act, the score has parodied expository numbers, such as "It’s a Privilege to Pee" ( which is a sly recall of the opening number from Brecht/Weill's “Threepenny Opera”), romantic duets, character songs, and patter songs that include choreographic send-ups of “West Side Story,” “Fiddler On The Roof” and “Les Misérables.”
Among those pieces feature Urinetown's aforementioned chief villain, Caldwell B. Cladwell, and in this production Mr. Carranza seizes the part, playing the role coyly and gentlemanly. His startling rendition of "Don't Be the Bunny" was a high spot of the night. Also Ms. Nelson, lovely actress and gifted singer, brings a vigorously expressive alto to Hope’s fervent ballad, "Follow Your Heart."
Another outstanding number is the persuasive, high-spirited gospel song, "Run, Freedom, Run!" led by the appealing Mr. Mohebbi’s Bobby. And if you listen hard, there is even some Fosse summoned in the number, "Snuff That Girl."
All of the characters were staggeringly good. To name a few — once again, Ms. Samudio’s precocious and irreverent street urchin, Lisa Dyson’s strong-willed Josephine "Ma" Strong (decisive, compassionate, patient, but hard as nails…“I don’t understand- You’re heart is like a stallion?”), Ms. McConaughy’s defiant and impulsive Little Becky Two-Shoes, Mr. Lester’s rebellious Joseph "Old Man" Strong, Mr. Butler’s greedy and bumbling Senator Fipp. And Garrett Russell as Lockstock's ebullient, high-spirited sidekick, Officer Barrel, who admirably finds a way to make an eye-popping role interesting with his animated portrayal.
Director Daniel has tightly shepherded this wickedly funny, fast-paced, and surprisingly intelligent comedic romp with amazing style, craftsmanship and energy. Marcus S. Daniel’s NY Directing credits include the world premier staging of “Bright is the Ring of Words” for the NYFF, spearheading the concert production of the same musical at Carnegie Hall starring Natalie Weiss, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Stagedoor Manor, “On The Town” and “Elf” for Narrows Theatre. In addition, his work has been seen around the world with Silversea Cruise Line where he created their shows “A Vamp and Her Tramp” and “Song and Dance.” Other credits: “Tommy,” “Aida,” “Cats,” “Mary Poppins,” “Les Miserables,” “[title of show],” “Bare: A Pop Opera,” and “Carrie: The Musical.”
For those of you unlucky enough to have missed the premiere, you just might be able to catch it here before it goes away August 8th at 5:00 pm PST entirely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFBfPkqbsNw
I don't have to tell you to Enjoy! Because, you will.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report