Underground Productions

UQ Schonell Theatre

30th August – 8th September 2012

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

WARNING: This review contains excessive toilet puns that may infurinate some readers. 

It’s not everyday your ticket to a musical theatre show comes nested in a neatly folded wad of toilet paper. But then again this is no ordinary musical; this is Urinetown…The Musical.

Presented by Underground Productions, Urinetown tells the story of a community plagued by drought and governed by strict laws that ban the use of private bathrooms; forcing the ever-suffering people to pay for the “privilege to pee” or be banished forever to Urinetown, a place from which ominously, no-one returns. Enter a rebellious latrine manager and a romance or two with a gal from the other side of the urinal and you have an uprising of bladder-busting proportions!

The self- referential style of the work echoes the style of Brecht and Weill, and cheekily titters at musical theatre clichés with some less than subtle references to popular Broadway (West Side Story, Carousel and Les Mis. to name a few). Director Lauren Ware has delivered an engaging, high energy show that despite being high on the giggle-meter flushes…I mean…fleshes out some poignant messages for our consumer-crazy society from the viewpoint of all involved. But don’t get your knickers in too much of a twist, there are enough spirit fingers and poetic melodrama to keep the mood flowing lightly, after all it is a musical…

Speaking of music, Urinetown is bought to life by Musical Director Matthew Samer, (who after being dragged on the scene by police escort) leads an absolutely ‘kickin’ band and vocally strong cast through what is essentially quite a challenging score. This is a challenge met by each of the performers, as they take on their roles with a fierceness and commitment that is entirely infectious.

Vocally, the standouts for me in this production are the richly voiced James Gauci (as love struck and heroic Bobby Strong) and the tinkling… I mean twinkling soprano of Rhiannon Moushall (as our happy hopeful heroine, Hope Caldwell). The two create a wonderfully comic onstage chemistry and manage to balance character and great singing to a wee…I mean tee 😉

I also enjoyed Kieran Davey in the role of Officer Lockstock. His jaunty and dry narration provided a great sense of grounding to the melodrama onstage and showed great sense of comic timing and sincerity.

John Da Conceicao is wonderfully imposing as the tawdry Caldwell B. Caldwell, head of Urine Good Company, and Xanthe Jones brings a great physicality to the role of the Little Sally, her mischievous demeanor reminiscent of Les Miserable’s Gavroche. Alongside, the entire supporting cast are stellar, producing some wonderful comic and musical moments that keep the pace of the show…whiz-zing along and completely engaging from start to finish.

The supporting ensemble appeared varied in experience, some grabbing my attention a …wee-bit more with the skill of their characterisation, physicality and vocal capabilities, nevertheless the cast offered a collective energy that scooped up the less experienced and presented a united force to be reckoned with. The ensemble moments in the show were the highlight of this production for me; I particularly loved the rousing gospel chorus of Run, Freedom Run that saw the young Bobby comically conducting the impromptu choir. Likewise, mention must be made to the great choreography throughout this show, dynamic and complimentary to the varied skill of the cast, it created a sense of seamlessness that kept the energy high.

The creative team and entire cast are to be congratulated for delivering a show that I would place among my favorite musical theatre performances this year. So relieve yourself of your daily worries and plop…I mean pop in to the Schonell Theatre to catch Urinetown while you …can!



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