Monday, June 24, 2013

A Sweet Smelling Urinetown

The Jungle production is one of the finest of the year so far

It’s a long established truth of fantasy and science fiction that placing difficult contemporary issues into an unrealistic or otherworldly setting gives them clarity that is not as easily seen when viewed through a more ‘realistic’ lens.

Urinetown, the Jungle’s newest romp, is a shining example of this truth. Filled with witty symbolism and candy coated harsh realities, Urinetown does an exemplary job of shoving our noses into awareness of a political system that is currently, well, shit.

Public Amenity No. 9 a locale facing a devastating drought that has been ongoing for decades. Cladwell and the Urine Good Company (UGC) have long been in charge of water management, thereby controlling all the citizens of the public amenities throughout the city. The UGC’s harsh tactics, high fees, and resource stinginess create a corporate resentment among the citizens reminiscent of Les Miserables or Occupy Wall Street.

The cesspool of ill will towards the UGC finally boils over when Bobby Strong, a low level UGC employee, sees his father sent to Urinetown (the UGC’s penal colony and ultimate sentence) to be punished for refusing to pay the water fee. Strong leads the residents of Public Utility No. 9 to revolt against the UGC, who in the process capture Cladwell’s daughter, enrage a policeman, become inspired by a young girl named Sally, and  experience further misadventures. I won’t risk spoiling the ending, but it’s a refreshingly depressing reflection on the near impossibility of providing good quality of life and responsibly managing natural assets in a world where any resource is scarce.

The cast is a musical tour-de-force, creating the auditory equivalent of a harmonic mortar blast with every tune. They’re a delight to watch and their standout vocals keep the audience whizzing from number to number. It’s difficult to choose a best among the great range of songs, but standouts include “Urinetown,” “It’s a Privilege to Pee” and “Don’t Be the Bunny.”

As always, Jungle regular Bradley Greenwald is a true delight to watch as Officer Lockstock (as seen above). With a wry smile and a banging set of pipes, he is the perfect anchor for the cast, and he carries them and the show with aplomb.

Kersten Rodau (Penelope Pennywise, left with plunger) and Elisa Pluhar (Little Sally) are equally exciting to watch. Both have clearly digested the souls of their characters, and they provide an ear blistering vocal counterpart that parlay’s the show’s snide sense of humor into gut splitting territory.

Patrick Morgan is fine as Bobby Strong, though he has an occasional tendency to over sing. Tiffany Seymour is appropriately sunny as Hope Cladwell, and Gary Briggle an inspiringly nasty overlord as Caldwell B Cladwell.

The Jungle provides a truly unique space to see a musical – traditionally with a gangbusters production like Urinetown, the audience would strain from balconies to see the action. The Jungle’s small space, however, provides an amazing viewpoint from every seat that can be lost in a larger venue. The sound production is also fantastic – each voice can be heard even in ensemble numbers, and the fantastic orchestra leads their way.

Urinetown is one of the delights of the summer and a wonderful respite from the sticky humidity and power outages Twin Cities residents are enduring, making Urinetown’s overt symbolism even harder to ignore. I highly recommend it to any and all, for both a great escape and a chance to thoughtfully reconsider how our system works today.

For more information about tickets or the show, please click this link.