Urinetown – Spoof or Prophecy?

Langham Court Theatre’s Urinetown production “great fun”

By Sheila Martindale

You might wonder how a show with such an unappealing name could be a hit. But Urinetown was popular when it first hit the boards, and it continues to be now at the Langham Court Theatre.

It is a BIG production, many of you will know the smaller size of the theatre and stage at Langham Court; so huge congratulations are owed to the director, Roger Carr, and the choreographer, Jennifer Sanders.

The strong singing is one of the first things that strikes you, so kudos also to the music director Donna Williams. This group of performers sings well together and the songs are well-written and harmonious. The principal male character, Liam McDonald, has a particularly fine voice.

The thesis of the play is that a drought has necessitated banning the use of private toilets; people are therefore forced to use public amenities, for which they have to pay apparently disproportionately large sums of money. So eventually a riot ensues among people who are already poor, and object to having to pay to pee. Still doesn’t really sound like the kind of show people would flock to see, though. I guess you have to be there to comprehend its appeal. So, we have enmity between the underprivileged, and the corporate types who get rich by charging them for such a basic function. And then we have a love affair between the leader of the rebellion and the daughter of the corporate big shot, causing a major complication.

The two police officers are an interesting set by the names of Mr. Lockstock and Mr. Barrel – get the joke there? Mr. Lockstock, ably played and sung by Dwayne Gordon, is also the story’s narrator, so he spends some time explaining the plot, and at the same time poking a little fun. In fact, the entire musical show is a kind of spoof, tongue-in-cheek but with a real basis of truth. As Lockstock says, “it is not a happy musical.”

The costumes in this show are way over the top, but that’s OK because of the type of production it is. Doug Craig’s set design is very ingenious, if a little busy, but it is functional enough for twenty-four actors and four musicians to be on stage at the same time without falling over each other.

Difficult as this piece of theatre is to define, I would have to say it is part self-deprecating satire and half prophetic warning of our inability to sustain the quality of life on earth to which we have become accustomed. It is also great fun, as the wild applause and hooting on opening night testified. On the serious side, the Capital Regional District has set up a display in the lobby on water conservation, and had also donated a spigot in the bar area, which has allowed the theatre to discontinue the sale of plastic bottles of water.

Langham Court has picked an unlikely and ambitious show here, which, despite its name and subject matter, seems to be turning out to be a winner. Urinetown runs until February 3; for tickets call 250-384-2142 or email boxoffice@langhamtheatre.ca

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