Imagine a world where using the toilet was only something you could do if you had enough money (a bit like being trapped in a train station for your whole life where you can’t get through the barriers without paying 50p). This is a world that exists in Urinetown, a world heavily policed and anyone caught trying to avoid paying for ‘the privilege to pee’ is arrested and sent to a prison of sorts, a black hole where people are thrown into and never seen again.
When Hope Cladwell (Rosanna Hyland) arrives in town to work for her fathers company (which enforces the payment system) she meets toilet attendant Bobby Strong (Richard Fleeshman) and inadvertently gives him the courage to fight back against her fathers system and start a revolution.
Urinetown is a Broadway show written by Mark Holliman and Greg Kotis which has been brought to the St James Theatre under Jamie Lloyd’s direction. Beautifully directed and incredibly staged. The set for this show is second to none and before they performance even began I knew something special was about to happen in front of my eyes.
The show is narrated by Officer Lockstock (Jonathan Slinger) and Little Sally (Karis Jack) who cleverly explain the scenes that are about to unfold in freeze framed moments of the show (special mention must go to Ann Yee for the wonderful choreography).
The songs in this show are incredible and with stand out number after stand out number it is hard to pick favourites. As the show goes on, the musical has a gospel type feel to it that builds and builds into a wonderful climax. However it is the comedy songs that work incredibly in this show. ‘Its A Privilege To Pee’ is performed by Penelope Pennywise (Jenna Russell) who gives the stand out performance of the show as a Mrs Lovett esq character. ‘Dont Be The Bunny’ performed by Cladwell B Cladwell (Simon Paisley Day) and his company is a hilarious justification for how you makes you’re own fate in life and being rich or poor is ultimately a choice. The shows finale song ‘I See A River’ performed by Rosanna Hyland (Hope) is incredible and shows the strength of her voice which sadly we don’t appreciate until the end.
Urinetown is incredibly refreshing to see in a time when new musicals are failing in the west end and we are being over run with staged adaptions of films. A faith restoring show that has every aspect of what musical theatre really should be. Whether you are a regular theatregoer or have never seen any shows, this is the perfect musical that is a masterclass in performance, songwriting and storytelling.
There is no question in my mind that this show will transfer to the west end where it will have a long and successful run. Truly deserved.
Reviewed by West End Wilma