Sunday, November 19, 2006

Urinetown, if urine for it

My freelance review:
"Urinetown: The Musical" -- being performed by the St. Louis Repertory Theatre at the Grandel Theatre -- is generally entertaining, but -- at the risk of sounding pissy, there were a few small things that bothered me.

Urinetown is a farcical look at a future society where a long-lasting, severe drought makes water such a precious commodity that a greedy corporate tycoon pays off corrupt politicians and officials to make it illegal for people to urinate but in designated public toilets -- and at a fee that breaks the backs of the poorer members of the community.

For those old enough to remember, this may sound like the kind of goofy premise we could have seen played out in a zany 20-minute skit on "The Carol Burnett Show." And that leads me to pissy-point #1: At 2 hours and twenty minutes (including a pee break, er, I mean intermission), the play came across as a bit too long.

And, pissy-point #2: The lighthearted tone of the play shifts from Act 1 to Act 2. Some of characters go way over-the-top in Act 2, it seems.

These pissy points aside, some of the songs are catchy and clever, if not just a little bit gross. Take "It's a Pleasure to Pee," for example! And there are some good laughs to be had with the caricatures and zingers.

This is a play that strives hard not to take itself -- or the art of musical theatre -- too seriously, evident in the recurring, light-hearted narrative delivered directly to the audience by Officer Lockstock, played to laughs by Steve Isom.

Another stand-out performance comes from Joneal Joplin in the role of Caldwell B. Cladwell, the "bad guy" executive. Joplin, a seasoned actor with range, seems to have a lot of fun in his role.

So, if urine the mood for an absurd comedy and can be patient with the running time and the zany characters, check out Urinetown. (Sorry, I couldn't hold it in.)

Urinetown, the last show of the season for the Rep's "Off-Ramp Series," plays at the Grandel Theatre through Dec. 10.

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