Urinetown (ArtsEd)

Urinetown is a musical that sends up other musicals, notably Les Miserables and The Threepenny Opera, but others too, in a tale which is far from a “happy musical”.

The sixth form students at ArtsEd, just finishing their BTEC course, have put together a show which is hugely entertaining and has some really good performances with boundless energy.

As we enter the grandly named Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre cast members are crouched in the slips and by the stage, giving the feel of the entrance into the poor part of town. A two-tier set allows the corporate HQ to loom over the town it controls.

The company of Urinetown

We’re at one of the grottiest of the public amenities run for the profits of private enterprise, and life is hard when you “have to pay to pee”. The mechanics of just two rushes a day, and how the inhabitants handle defecation, which presumably costs even more, is left silent, as “audiences prefer to concentrate on just one thing”.

The score by Mark Hollmann is very catchy, and takes aim at a range of Broadway composers. “Don’t Be The Bunny” and “Let Freedom Ring” are particularly highlights, and as promised there’s a song and dance bonanza to close Act One with some stunning footwork from the ensemble.

Act Two takes a darker turn as the mystery of what happens to lawbreakers in exile are revealed and we get an unusual love song in “Tell Her I Love Her”. There’s a sense of the Paris barricades as the desperate and dispossessed take possession of their flow and finances, and of Romeo and Juliet in the tale of doomed young love.

The company of Urinetown

Every member of this company has a chance to make a mark, not just the leads, although narrator Officer Lockstock (Harry Tunningley), hero Bobby (Eoin McCaul), winsome Hope (Emily Parker), toilet brush-wielding Cladwell (Edward White), sweet Little Sally (Georgia Arron) and scary Miss Pennywise (Katie Driver) get the pick of the numbers and register most strongly.

Urinetown may well have a peculiarly unhappy ending, but it is a lively show with which the young company totally engage – there are plenty of triple threats, big voices and nifty footwork here, and I look forward to seeing how these youngsters progress in their careers.

Urinetown played at ArtsEd from 4-6 March, and was directed by Rosie Jones, MD was Giovanna Ryan, and choreographer Jamie Harris. Images are by Steve Gregson.

LouReviews purchased a ticket to see Urinetown.