Review: 'Urinetown: The Musical' at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology
OnStage New Jersey Critic
“Urinetown The Musical” opened on September 20, 2001 at the Henry Miller’s Theatre (now the Stephen Sondheim Theatre) and was nominated for ten Tony Awards that season and winning Best Original Book, Best Score and Best Direction for John Rando. The music was written by Mark Hollmann, book by Greg Kotis and lyrics by Hollmann and Kotis. The original Broadway cast featured Hunter Foster (The Bridges of Madison County), Jennifer Laura Thompson (Dear Evan Hansen), and principal changes that included James Barbour (Phantom of the Opera) and Carolee Carmelo (Finding Neverland).
The story of Urinetown centers around a water shortage that was caused by a long drought that has caused a government ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities that are controlled by a company that profits by controlling the government, bribing the police and charging the public to meet their most basic need. After a series of events, the show’s protagonist, Bobby decides he must do something about this and lead an uprising against the greed of this fictional city in this musical satire.
This is the first musical I have seen at GCIT in a couple of years, but the quality of their shows are still some of the best in South Jersey. Katie Knoblock’s direction of this show reflects many of the Broadway intentions of the show while raising the bar on how high school productions should be performed. Kris Clayton should be recognized for the phenomenal set design and Stage Rates LLC for the set construction. The vocal work by the ensemble is wonderful but the choreography by Erica Paloucci is amazing. In the GCIT production’s second act, “Snuff That Girl” and “Run, Freedom, Run!” are quite possibly my favorite versions that I have seen of these songs. Kudos go out to the ensemble for their work in that difficult choreography in back to back songs. Their commitment to their characters through their choreography was exceptional as well.
There are some cast members of special note. Joey Bennett (Officer Lockstock) has incredible comedic timing makes Lockstock a wonderful comedic villain and narrator. I adored the work of Alana Kopelove, whose portrayal of Little Sally brings the wit and delivery of many veteran child actors on Broadway and TV. Spencer Petro brings such heart to the role of Bobby Strong. He brings such energy to the role and some nice depth as well. You see his transformation from meek assistant, to love struck reluctant hero. This evening Haley Watson played heroine Hope Cladwell very well and Dylan Glick brought an edgy Caldwell B. Gladwell to the stage that seems to be inspired by many politicians we see on the news daily. Sydney Sheehan (Penelope Pennywise), Dylan Martone (Senator Flip), Michael Schaffner (Hot Blades), Rachel Masselek (Little Becky) and Ashley Birdsall (Officer Barrel) all turn in nice performances in supporting roles.
Urinetown was a welcomed couple of hours of musical satire for the society we are living in. It takes the real time issues America is having (legal system, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, politics, environmental and social irresponsibility) and roles them into an evening of comedic musical theatre. If you have become increasingly frustrated how the news and arts have been treated, this is an evening well worth the admission. GCIT captures the intent of the Broadway show and the students show their understanding and attention to the small details that make productions special.
Gloucester County Institute of Technology
3 out of 4 Urinals
Spencer Lau is a fourteen-year public school teacher, producer, music education advocate, clinician, writer and musical theater director. He can also be followed on Twitter (@njdlau)