Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Urinetown by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Urinetown by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Urinetown by Ginger Hibiscus
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-18368,single-format-standard,tribe-no-js,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.2.1,vc_responsive

11 Oct REVIEW: Urinetown at the Apollo Theatre

The first time you see a billboard for “Urinetown,” it’s difficult to know what to think. It’s hard to tell if it’s just an advertising pastiche; or if it’s an earnest poster for a small-time musical in a small-time theatre; or more likely, something very…niche…created specifically with urophiles in mind. What doesn’t necessarily jump out, is that it might be a, “culturally relevant, entertaining political satire presented through the medium of song, dance and jazz hands.” So it’s only after seeing Urinetown that you can appreciate the brilliance of these posters, laugh about the title, regard the musical with a grin, and a longing to rush straight back to the Apollo.

Urine TownSet in an alternative reality where an agonising 20 years of drought have left water so scarce that the Government enforces a ban on bathrooms in private residences, Urinetown takes us to the heart of the greed and corruption of Urine Good Company (UGC). Tasked with running the public toilets, UGC is the image of a capitalist wet dream; a violently enforced prohibition on urinating in public, met with minimum pricing for the use of UGC facilities, the only possible way of describing what UGC have, is a government-sanctioned monopoly. It is, quite literally, a privilege to pee. Desperately impoverished and absolutely bursting to go, oppressed citizens stand in line around Public Amenity Number 9, the cheapest and filthiest urinal in town. But when UGC announce a fee hike, revolution is in the air, led by toilet attendant Bobby Strong.

Urine TownAs Bobby Strong, Matthew Seadon-Young is an absolute revelation; somehow pouring sex appeal into urination (what did I say about urophiles?), he makes a principled, charismatic and ultimately convincing leader. But as is traditional in musical theatre, his muscular arms require a lithe, idealistic young woman to wrap themselves around. Enter: Hope Cladwell, daughter of Caldwell B Cladwell, the head of UGC (do we detect a hint of a plot coming together here?) In the role, Rosanna Hyland is utterly captivating, delivering a vocal performance that will surely make other West End casting directors look up and take note. With a voice and a loveliness about her that could melt even the politicians’ hearts, Hyland is just flawless. She’s just another example of the perfect casting that’s exemplified by Jonathan Slinger as narrator Officer Lockstock, and Jenna Russell as Miss Pennywise, continuing through the unanimously strong ensemble, of whom Katie Bernstein as Little Becky Two Shoes is particularly notable.

Such strong casting (David Grindrod Associates) goes a long way to creating an excellent show, yet it doesn’t guarantee a hit. But a strong cast using a dynamic but not overcomplicated set, performing wonderfully incongruous choreography and following the direction of Jamie Lloyd can only create something fabulous. So when you add in lashings of dark comedy, politics, social critique and a hint of musical parody, the result is just…addictive.

Mildly absurd from start to finish, Urinetown is deliciously brutal, boasting quantities of stage blood that would make even Sweeney Todd squeamish, a wink and a nudge to the other musicals of Shaftesbury Avenue, and layer upon layer of cold, hard laughs. So ignore the title, suppress your reservations and go to see it- you might just find yourself going back over and over and over again, catching different details from the mind of a genius, and coming out raving every single time. It’s been referred to as a, “cult classic musical,” and if that’s what it is, then please, sign me up- now!

For tickets and information:
Image credit: Johan Persson

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here