Sunday, September 10, 2006

‘URINETOWN’ is okay, but not great at Carousel

Last year, when Beck Center, produced URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL! I stated, “Beck’s’ production is outstanding! The cast is excellent...not a weak link in the chain.” I’d love to say the same thing about the Carousel Dinner Theatre production, but I can’t. That’s not to say the production was bad, it just didn’t live up to my previous experiences with the show.

The show is fun, in fact, a total delight, but it also has a serious underbelly. This is a tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a city where water is worth its weight in gold. Messages pervade, such as what happens when big business is given the right to control our lives. Think of the pharmaceutical and medical companies and their stranglehold over our health. What is it like to be lied to continually in an attempt to push a political and economic agenda? Think of the amount of money being made by the oil and military-industrial complex and influential public officials. Think of the rape of the environment caused by loosening the clean air act. The fantasy of the situation described in ‘URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL’ has become near reality.

The first act of the Carousel show, as directed by Jennifer Cody dragged. The cleverness was missing. The cast seemed to be moon walking through their roles, often not connecting with the audience. The second act, however, sparkled. The pacing intensified and a feeling of abandonment set in. The transition centered on Brian Loeffler’s excellently choreographed act two opener, “What is Urinetown.” This, “Cop Song” and “Run, Freedom, Run” were the show’s highlights.

Chris Murrah has a good singing voice and developed a clear character as Bobby. Karen Katz was a delightful scene stealer as Little Sally. She and Murrah were absolutely consistent in their high quality level.

Al Bundonis was not playful enough as Officer Lockstock. Much of the success of the production centers on his characterization. Unfortunately, he never quite hit the right stride. Patrick Carroll was totally ineffective as Senator Flipp. Robert Stoeckle was not slimy enough as the bad guy, Caldwell B. Cladwell. Without the audience hating him, much of the play’s core erodes. Also adding to the problems was the tinny sound of the overly keyboarded orchestra.

Carousel deserves kudos for taking a severe bend in their usual safe production road by producing this controversially titled and subject-mattered script. Hopefully, they will continue to challenge their audiences.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘URINETOWN THE MUSICAL’ can be a delightful and meaningful experience. The Carousel production comes close, but has too many weaknesses to be a stellar production.