The Tony Award winning 2001 Broadway musical Urinetown made its London debut earlier this year at the St James Theatre in Victoria. One of the most talked about shows begged the question why? Why write a musical set in a world with a water shortage where you must pay to use the toilet. Where anyone caught trying to relieve themselves outside of these facilities is arrested and sent to the horrific place that is Urinetown. Sounds awful doesn’t it? Who on earth would anyone want to go and see a show with that subject matter? The answer is everyone, because it’s actually one of the most incredible shows you will ever see and is all the more intriguing to people because it sounds so awful.
Every single song in this show is a massive show stopper. 25 minutes into act one there is a huge fanfare with money falling from the ceiling of the theatre. I thought it was bizarre to have such a spectacle performance in the middle of a show but as the story progressed I realised every song was just as incredible.
Every moment of Urinetown is brilliantly directed by Jamie Lloyd. There is not one movement in the whole show that doesn’t look like it has been thought out and done for a reason. The choreography by Richard Roe is utterly brilliant with every move as slick as it could possibly be.
There are so many, very slight but obvious homages to other west end shows, giving the audience a little nod of familiarity and cleverly using things they know will help make a great show.
Jonathan Slinger plays Officer Lockstock, the comedy policeman who narrates the show. He brings the right amounts sensitivity and authority to bring the audience on board for the shows journey.
Katie Bernstein stands out from the ensemble with her large piercing eyes and amazing hip hop dance moves. Karis Jack is a little firecracker as Little Sally. She may be small but she has an impressive set of lungs and nice tone to her voice.
It is Jenna Russell however who steals the show with her portrayal of Penelope Pennywise, the woman in charge of making sure everyone pays for the privilege to pee. If Mrs Lovett from Sweeney Todd was sent to be the ruler of the bog of eternal stench in the film Labyrinth, it would be Penelope Pennywise. Jenna is hilariously brilliant in her portrayal of the role and it has award winning performance written all over it.
Urinetown is the best, all round, show the West End has seen since Wicked came to town in 2006. There is something in this production for everyone. Whether you are eight years old or eighty, I find it hard to believe that anyone would struggle to enjoy it. That is a very special thing to be able to create and I hope this show wins over the theatre-going public and earns a well deserved space in the West End.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Urinetown is playing at the Apollo Theatre until 24 January 2015. Click here to book tickets
A special Charity Gala performance of Urinetown will be held on 20th October in aid of Water.org. Book your tickets now and support a great show and a great cause.
Click here for a chance to win two tickets to see Urinetown