Skip to main content

3rd May 2024

Urinetown: The Musical review – UMMTS doesn’t piss about

UMMTS once again fails to disappoint. Urinetown, despite its name, is a delight (GASP!)
Urinetown: The Musical review – UMMTS doesn’t piss about
Credit: Madison French and Rach Seymour @ UMMTS

UMMTS’ decision to put on Urinetown, written by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, is certainly a bold one. The musical is bizarre, tricky in its world-building and requires a very talented cast. It’s a decision that pays off immensely. Erin Walfisz should be confident in the fact that they have pulled an incredible show out of the bag.

The musical follows the story of a town which has suffered a 20-year drought and as a result, have to pay a fee to use the privatised amenities. Hope Cladwell (Rachel Wheatley), daughter to the Urine Good Company’s CEO, Caldwell B. Cladwell (Aoife Thompson ), meets Bobby Strong (Aaron Stace). As the two fall in love, revolutionary sparks light the cinder box of the town. All seems hopeful yet the threat of being exiled to the eponymous Urinetown looms large and strikes fear into the heart of the piece.

The musical is a political satire that is self-aware and bold in its musical identity. Officer Lockstock (Fen Columb-Hallewell) and Little Sally (Katie Sutton) narrate the show with a knowing tone. Sutton is stunning as Little Sally and steals every scene she is in. Column-Hallewell has the authority and charm that suits the police/narrator role perfectly. The first thing to notice when the show begins is how incredible the band are, with Eve Klein as musical director and the set that embraces the anarchic goofiness of the whole musical, with its collaging and mock office photos to compliment.

Design: Rach Seymour @ UMMTS

The first big piece is the song ‘Urinetown’, which showcases how strong and tight the cast is. Ruby Kuhr’s choreography is wonderful as their jazzy style suits the music so well. We are very quickly introduced to Scarlett Bartman as Penelope Pennywise singing ‘It’s a Privilege to Pee’ with chilling characterisation and introduction to one of our heroes: Bobby. Stace plays Bobby so well, with the hopeful air of a combination of Jiminy Cricket and a Flash advert voice-over which suits the character down to a T. A special mention should go to Anushka Rehman, playing Bobby’s father, who was standing in at the last minute, which you couldn’t tell at all because she was so seamlessly a gem and a clear member of the company.

‘Mr Cladwell’ is a large cabaret-esque piece that like the cast pulls off with such precision. There is so much comedy in the piece that only works because of the clarity that everyone is performing with. Wheatley as Hope takes this clarity to the next level, with her Cinderella-like innocence and dow eyes. It is clear to see why Wheatley and Stace were cast together as their harmonies were so pleasing and their voices complimented each other so well.

By ‘Act One Finale’, I was stunned by how clear it was that every element was pulling its weight, drawing on Threepenny Opera and Les Miserables. The sense of comedy, character, dread and clarity was so on point that I felt I was watching potentially one of the best UMMTS shows I’ve seen.

As Act II opened, the audience settled down and an excited hush fell over the room yet we were met with what seemed like a major technical issue with the sound. Now the only reason I am choosing to mention this is not because I thought it was a failing of anyone’s but because the entire company dealt with this so brilliantly. When they had to start again, they did so with such attack and high energy, that any fault was quickly forgotten. The tonal change after the interval to something more brooding and full of dread was executed superbly.

The second half I felt wasn’t as slick as the first which I felt seemed to do with a tired cast; the musical runs at two hours and some of the pacing in Act II could have done with speeding up. Also, some of the choreography seemed to play on this idea of puppetry which personally I would have liked to be taken further.  Really this is all very minuscule stuff because I was massively impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Even in the serious moments, the show and cast never lost their sense of goofiness which ultimately became the most chilling part of the piece. This whole company are just brilliant and executed this show so brilliantly, I was completely in line with the person who sat next to me, saying at the end “I want to see it all again!”

Urinetown runs until May 4 at the Students’ Union Theatre. You can find tickets here.

More Coverage

42 Balloons review: An inspiring musical about dreams, sacrifices and a lawn chair

Charlie McCullagh’s and Evelyn Hoskins’ elevated chemistry blew us away

Hedda review: A misguided imitation of Ibsen’s masterpiece

Contact hosts Here to There Productions’ for a version of Hedda Gabler that is almost as painful as a genuine gunshot wound

My Beautiful Laundrette review: Nationalism, racial tensions, and political turmoil

Lacking a fresh political perspective, entertaining with classic tunes and compelling design, My Beautiful Laundrette takes stage at The Lowry

Come From Away press launch: A community show for Christmas

A special preview of The Lowry’s non-Christmassy Christmas show inspired by remarkable true events from 9/11