Play is a triumph of talent over title

The title is revolting, the plot hokey, the characters are overwrought, the acting is atrocious and the dancing ridiculous.

The title is revolting, the plot hokey, the characters are overwrought, the acting is atrocious and the dancing ridiculous.

Despite the heavy odds, The Guild’s production of Urinetown … the Musical is tremendous.

The story unfolds in a futuristic “Gotham-like city” that’s experiencing a severe drought “some time after the Stink Years.”

The action starts at Public Amenity No. 9, the “poorest, filthiest urinal in town” where a line of beggars in tattered clothing clutch their groins and count their pennies to get into the pay-to-pee public toilets.

If they can’t pay, officers Lockstock and Barrel drag them off to a “mystical place” called Urinetown — yes, it’s as bad as it sounds — and they are never seen again.

Of course, true to the musical genre, there’s a forbidden romance with star-crossed lovers from different sides of the tracks.

And the story carries heavy political messages — the Earth cannot support humanity’s unsustainable way of life — in a very comically accessible way.

It’s a fable where the forces of right and wrong are clearly defined. Greed is punished and the oppressed prevail, but one of the most interesting things about this story is that it doesn’t end there.

After the good triumph, everything falls apart and we’re left with a stage full of hopeful, free characters collapsing from dehydration.

The characters, aware of the fact they’re in a musical, poke fun at its title and premise: “Nothing can kill a show like too much exposition,” Officer Lockstock (Al Loewen) tells the audience.

“How about bad subject matter? Or a bad title, even? That can kill a show pretty good,” quips Little Sally (Charlie Wilson), the sweeter-than-pie, precocious young child.

Cladwell B. Cladwell (James McCullough) is the head suit at Urine Good Company — the capitalistic, malevolent corporation that charges people for the right to relieve themselves and has paid off police and politicians to ensure its laws are obeyed.

McCullough is everything an evil villain should be, complete with a dark moustache. And he can dance.

An unlikely hero, Bobby Strong (Kyle MacDonald) emerges to lead the poor through rebellion to free peeing.

MacDonald’s strong yet gentle voice complements the sweet sounds of his romantic counterpart Hope Cladwell (Erica Bigland).

Bigland’s rich sweet voice can fill a stadium and every song she sings sounds like a lullaby.

Cate Innish plays the hardened public toilet owner with a secret locked in her tight fist along with the beggars’ hard-gotten coins.

And the pair of swaggering, backward bobbies, officers Lockstock and Barrel (Mike Ellis), are a highlight as they blunder through town with egos too big for their black britches.

The production will appeal to theatre lovers and those just looking for a cheap laugh.

It subscribes to, and spoofs, every cheesy theatrical devise in Broadway’s bag of tricks.

The script is an endless stream of clever one-liners, groan-making puns and gags.

It’s crammed with ridiculous musical numbers like Don’t be the Bunny and Run Freedom Run that had the play’s Friday night audience doubled over in laughter.

And that kind of a reaction has got to be a relief for director Eric Epstien, who took a gamble in presenting the newer, edgier dark comedy.

Although Urinetown began on the fringes of New York theatre in 1999, and debuted on Broadway in 2001, garnering critical acclaim and a trio of Tony awards, it’s not your traditional musical fare.

On first glance, it’s not a hit like last year’s sure-to-please pick from the Guild, Guys and Dolls, that crammed audiences into the Yukon Arts Centre night after night.

To stage such a Broadway musical, with a cast of 17 plus a six-person orchestra, in the modest Guild Hall theatre is a feat worthy of a magician.

But in Urinetown, the Guild has once again proven its ability to do so much with so little — a small budget and hours of volunteer sweat.

Urinetown is playing at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. until May 4. On May 5 and 6 the shows move to 11 p.m. Tickets for weekday shows are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors, weekend shows cost $22 for adults and $18 for students and seniors.

Oh yeah, and make sure to pee before the music starts.

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