out of town. Jane
by T.E. Klunzinger
What can one say about a show that flies in the face of everything you know
about musical theater? Fearless. Appalling. Exhilarating. “Urinetown,”
MSU’s final season show (at Pasant Theater for almost all the next nine
days) is that and more, fabulously co-directed by Brad Willcuts and Rob
Roznowski with in-your-face choreography, the likes of which has not been
seen in quite some time.
The story: sometime in a parallel future, water has become exceedingly
scarce and its management has been privatized to the Urine Good Company
under whose benevolent oversight all citizens must pay to pee. This is
naturally unpopular and soon enough the people rebel, stuff happens and the
survivors try to live happily ever after. But they don’t.
The fun of this “entirely original version” of the Broadway hit comes in
getting to know the archly-played archetypes who populate “new Flint” (as
it’s introduced): the genial, cynical ringmaster Officer Lockstock (Matt
Greenbaum), the wise-beyond-her-years Little Sally (Bethany Heinlein), the
charismatic Bobby Strong (DJ Shafer), tough-talking Penelope Pennywise
(Anna Birmingham), megalomanic Caldwell B. Cladwell (Jonathan Hamilton),
his too-virtuous daughter Hope (Hannah Martin) and, well, another 14
sharply defined characters.
Authors Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis combine wicked satire with memorable
melodies for everyone, especially so for Shafer and Martin who sing their
love duet while spinning above the stage, and the powerful second-act
quartet “Why Did I Listen to That Man?” Music Director Dave Wendelberger
smoothly guides the five-piece orchestra through the syncopated rhythms of
the often-difficult score.
The success of this immersive grungefest owes much to Lee Jones’ set
design, Chris Stowell’s lighting, costumes by Karen Kangas-Preston, as well
as to Meredith Wagner’s makeup on Cladwell’s pasty-faced minions.
A quibble: several of the characters are stated to be the parents of other
characters but are obviously the same age – it doesn’t quite work. Age has
its own authority.
Much has been made of the show’s timely relevance to the Flint Water
Crisis. Well yes, but like anything it’s possible to beat one over the head
with it – the Broadway version skewered many targets very well. But if you
really want to pursue the subject, you’ll want to attend the free Symposium
next Saturday at 4:30 pm with a seven-person panel of experts.