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Urinetown The Musical

Published 12 March 2014

What’s it all about?

To be read in your best blockbuster voice-over voice: “In a city ravaged by drought, an evil tycoon and his brutal police force control all the toilets. The public are desperate, pushed to bursting point. Only one man can rise against the cistern and flush this cash-hungry despot away…”

Urinetown The Musical sounds sillier than a target on a urinal, doesn’t it? Well it is, but knowingly so. It doesn’t so much send up the conventions of musical theatre as play it straight(ish) but point out every ridiculous contrived move it is about to make. There’s a whiff about it too… of Python.

Who’s in it?

Olivier Award winner Jenna Russell, who’s just been nominated for another bronze statuette, is hilarious as the rasping, grasping convenience controller Penelope Pennywise. Simon Paisley Day is gloriously over the top as bladder-baiting businessman Caldwell B Cladwell, like a walrus-faced Daddy Warbucks but without the orphan-saving caring side. Richard Fleeshman brings the perfect mix of sweetness and strength to t-shirt straining lead Bobby Strong. Royal Shakespeare Company regular Jonathan Slinger, making his musical theatre debut, unearths a likeable heart in vicious lawman and narrator Officer Lockstock.

What should I look out for?

Like an indecisive pee-er faced with 100 free urinals, I don’t know where to start.

Soutra Gilmour’s pop Gothic Burton-esque designs for the dingy dystopia are stunning. Ann Yee’s choreography utilises everything from pre-wee panic to over-egged jazz-handing. Newcomer Rosanna Hyland’s impressive ability to sing and dance whilst bound and gagged. Paisley Day’s facial hair, which should have its own credit, Russell’s physics-defying fag balancing, guffaw-inducingly ridiculous flashbacks and badges that, on press night, were so inspired by talk of freedom that they made a break for it themselves.

What tunes will I be humming?

This morning it’s the moody brooding title song that’s accompanied me on my train journey, along with the mock spiritual fervour of the anthemic Run, Freedom, Run.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Former musical theatre performers turned Hollywood stars Samantha Barks and Luke Evans brought the glamour. The Pride stars Harry Hadden-Paton, Mathew Horne and Al Weaver turned out to support director Jamie Lloyd. The West End’s own robbed The Voice contestant (sorry for the spoiler if you’re two weeks behind) Nathan Amzi was also in attendance.

In a nutshell?

A pant-wettingly funny pastiche. Well, it would be, if I didn’t fear the brutal consequences of such unhygienic over-enjoyment.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@BenjiHaigh: Absolutely incredible press night for @UrinetownUK ‘What is Urinetown?’ Something you must book now @St_JamesTheatre #epic #musical #london

@harryhpaton: Bit of advice? BOOK NOW FOR @UrinetownUK! Before the reviews come in tmrw. Completely excellent. @lloydjamie does it again.

Will I like it?

If you embrace silliness wholeheartedly, know your way around musicals and aren’t put off by the title (Come on people, really, it’s just a word!), Urinetown will have you clutching your sides and jiggling in your seat like a theatregoer who’s drunk five pints of water and not made a pre-performance pit stop. (A tip, don’t drink five pints of water without a pit stop before seeing the show).

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