by Chris Davis
Well, Urinetown: the musical, a grand spoof of all things song and dance (including some pokes at old BB himself) isn't that, exactly. But it's just Brecht/Weillian enough to scratch that peculiar itch. It's a dystopian comedy about a rebellion that takes down a corrupt corporate-owned Democracy where, to manage a water crisis, citizens must pay for every pee. But here's the important part: director Scott Duff, musical director Kermit Medsker and an all student cast have done a fantastic job of bringing this fun show to grubby, noisy, stinky life at Rhodes College's McCoy Theatre.
I'm a Rhodes alum and was in the locally infamous Jack Eric Williams production of Threepenny Opera which used an unauthorized translation and was shut down after only two preview performances. I've got to admit, seeing Urinetown's filthy beggars and twisted cops staring straight through the fourth wall, bellowing their lyrics like hungry animals with a taste for audience meat gave me a strange sense of closure.
Urinetown has some rough patches here and there but it's inventive and entertaining throughout. Corbin Williams makes Bobby Strong an innocent everyman. As his love interest Hope Cladwell Katie Marburger is a smarter-than-she-seems bubblehead in the tradition of Gloria Grahame and Judy Holliday. Emily Tarr's emotionally detached, absent-eyed take on the Little Sally, the Teddy Bear hugging waif is creepy and inspired. Chase Ring struts and squawks his hour upon the stage as Caldwell B. Cladwell, the show's fat cat villain. And Kilby Hodges strikes just the right balance between Barbara Stanwyck and the Bride of Frankenstein in the role of Penelope Pennywise, Urinetown's strumpet turned low-level bureaucrat turned hero of the revolution.
Weirdly enough I walked out of the theater not humming any tunes from the show but rather this Mr. Peachum lyric from Threepenny was stuck in my head: "The reply to a kick in the pants is just another kick in the pants so pursue but not to eagerly injustice."
This is a fun show and it's been selling well so it's probably best to call ahead and reserve seats.
If you want more details about Urinetown here's a review I wrote about a nicely imagined Playhouse on the Square production from 2006.