I should begin this review by explaining my own set biases. I am a movie critic. I’ve never reviewed a play before. I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to be looking for and thus may be missing some important stuff. So, I shall just do my best to give a fair and just review that may be lacking in theatrical knowledge.
With that being said, Urinetown was fantastic. It was completely enjoyable, engaging and challenging. I’ll start with the set. Immediately after entering Hemingway theatre, the stage jumps out at you and left me thoroughly awestruck. Hemingway, being a relatively small college’s main stage, is a miniscule set up that could be limiting to such an ambitious show. To circumnavigate the stage’s stifling nature, the set was extended nearly into the first row of seats and used every inch of the area made available to them. This helped to make the show an immersive experience and helped to lose one’s self in the world of the story.
Of course, no show would be able to get off the ground without the players and Urinetown’s lineup was one of quality and talent. Based on the limited number of plays I’ve seen, I would say that the acting was far better than any average college performance. Any minor flubs were minimal, relatively not bothersome and, occasionally, added to the enjoyment of the show as the audience saw the actors realize their mistakes and move past the moment. I must take time, though, to recognize the play’s male lead, Chris Getchell, who played Bobby Strong. Getchell took center stage with charisma, poise, and sharp wit and made a real emotional connection with the crowd. When Bobby Strong finally meets his fate in the middle of the second act, devastation encompassed the crowd as the narrator’s earlier grim promise was fulfilled; this indeed was not a “happy play.”
The narration also must be discussed. The meta narration by Officer Lockstock (portrayed by Sean Racine) and Little Sally (portrayed by Tara Hurley) was a great way to frame the story. Though any given play’s narrator often refers to the audience directly, the narrator, not just breaking, but shattering the fourth wall and discussing plot developments, the structure of the show, and the overall formality of storytelling really helped to distinguish this musical from the rest of the field and explore an unconventional story.
Finally, what I truly appreciate this play for is the story’s subversive message. The idea that corporate greed may be a necessity in our daily practices is a point rarely touched upon by storytellers. Urinetown really challenges the audience to question the lines between good and evil, natural and artificial, and question the relationship between people’s intrinsic rights and what is best for the masses.