Time Out rating:
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5
Time Out says
Posted: Wed Mar 12 2014
‘Urine good company’ runs one of the scatological gags that sprinkle this cult US musical like a golden shower. And you are in good company. For this UK premiere, hotshot director Jamie Lloyd has assembled an unlikely A team of talent from across the theatrical spectrum – and they gel wonderfully.
Pretty boy West End star? That’s Richard Fleeshman, suitably buff as Bobby Strong, the working-class hero of Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann’s eccentric satire. He’s there to look good, but he has fun too, notably with the show’s best song, hilariously ironic gospel number ‘Run, Freedom, Run!’.
Credible musical theatre heavyweight? Step forward, Jenna Russell, freshly Olivier-nominated for last year’s exquisite ‘Merrily We Roll Along’. Here she shows off her way with a high note as Bobby’s boss Penelope Pennywise, custodian of one of the swingeingly expensive public conveniences that citizens are forced to use in the show’s dystopian world.
‘Serious’ stage talent? Oh yes. I had problems with ‘Urinetown’, but any flaws are excused by Jonathan Slinger and Simon Paisley Day, a pair of ‘grown-up’ actors let completely off the leash. Paisley Day hams it up a storm as Caldwell B Cladwell, morally reprehensible CEO of UGC, the shadowy organisation responsible for regulating the latrines of the future.
But the real revelation is Slinger. A man so synonymous with the RSC that I thought maybe an Asbo was stopping him leaving Stratford, he’s utterly magnificent as Officer Lockstock, the lovably sadistic policeman with a deliciously fruity Noo Joisey accent whose ongoing dissection of the action provides most of ‘Urinetown’s belly laughs.
The musical itself is an odd beast, a combination of bleak social commentary and glib parody. Much of it feels like it was scribbled down on the back of an envelope in the middle of a bender, and that’s often a genuine strength. But if ‘Urinetown’ – which premiered in New York in 2001 – paved the way for ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘The Book of Mormon’, it doesn’t have the songs or emotional depth of either.
Nevertheless, with a dankly handsome Soutra Gilmour set and typically ebullient direction from Lloyd (the man bringing ‘Back to the Future’ to the stage next year), ‘Urinetown’ packs tremendous fun, great jokes and West End-grade production values into this cosy 300-seat theatre (which, fyi, has lovely toilets, free to use).