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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Urinetown: The Musical at Chapel Off Chapel (120 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval)

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

A 20-year drought has led to blatant exploitation of the underprivileged.

That is the basis of the satirical musical comedy Urinetown.

The narrator who sets the scene is also the town’s crooked cop Officer Lockstock (Dom Hennequin), as he is joined by street urchin Little Sally (Chloe Halley).

The terrible water shortage has meant that it costs to pee. Free public toilets are out of the question, no matter how desperate the need.

The oppressed assemble outside Public Amenity #9. The harsh authority there is Penelope Pennywise (Maddison Coleman), whose handsome young assistant is Bobby Strong (Finn Alexander).

Photos by Benjamin Gregory from BG Group

Even Strong’s father (Mike Gardiner) can’t use the facilities without coughing up.

Failure to do so results in being carted away to a place called Urinetown, from which there is no return.

The overlord pulling the strings and angling for even more money is the head of Urine Good Company, Caldwell B. Cladwell (Quin Kelly). Cladwell is a tyrant and proud of it.

He welcomes home from university his daughter Hope (Amy McMillan), who he engages as his new fax and copy girl.

Her head is turned by Bobby Strong, who recognises he needs to stand up for what is only fair and decent. There is revolution in the air.

With music and lyrics from Mark Hollmann and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, Urinetown: The Musical premiered both off and on Broadway in 2001.

It claimed Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Direction of a Musical.

It is fun, fanciful and frivolous, but beneath the veneer is an important message about climate change.

The talented 16-strong cast at Chapel Off Chapel has a wow of a time with the material.

The piece is filled with jokes and one liners and, as the saying goes, timing is everything, which the performers nail.

Of the many stand outs, I would like to mention a few.

Dom Hennequin is superb as the narrator and less than scrupulous policeman. He has great stage presence and a strong singing voice.

Finn Alexander really starts to assert his character when the tide turns against the corporation pulling the strings.

His piece de resistance comes when he literally conducts an “orchestra” of the disenfranchised in Act II.

Amy McMillan, too, has fire in her belly as a young lady who can’t stand idly by and let the downtrodden be walked over.

Maddison Coleman draws on her impressive set of pipes to full effect, while Quin Kelly seems to relish his role as the dastardly villain.

Chloe Halley’s dry humour is a real asset as Little Sally, while Ashlee Noble brings comic sensibilities to Officer Lockstock’s love struck subordinate Officer Barrel.

I thoroughly enjoyed the up-tempo, crowd-pleasing music and lyrics. The musical director is Ben Samuel and the production features a nine-piece band.

Sophie Loughran’s choreography is a real winner, as is Mark Taylor’s direction.

My only criticism concerned the projections, which were barely discernible against a clear plastic backdrop at the outset.

Nor could I make out a single projection against the back wall, but I dare say both shouldn’t be too difficult to fix.

Urinetown: The Musical is a bright and breezy spoof. Given our energy crisis and focus on natural resources it resonates even more strongly today than when it was conceived.

It is playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 6th November, 2022.


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