Friday 10 October 2014

Urinetown - Review

Apollo Theatre, London


Music & lyrics by Mark Hollmann
Book & lyrics by Greg Kotis
Directed by Jamie Lloyd

Jonathan Slinger

After a successful three year run on Broadway a decade ago and a recent stint at London’s St James’ Theatre, Urinetown finally makes it to the West End. Set in a dystopian, drought-ridden future where corporations control the only toilets and the down at heel population must pay for the ‘privilege to pee’, Urinetown’s producers must be wondering what will put audiences off first – its title or its subject matter. It would be a great shame if either did because this is a seriously funny, subversively witty show. (And actually, Greg Kotis’ knowing script gets that joke in long before any reviewer has thought of it. Breaking the fourth wall at will, Jonathan Slinger’s deliciously degenerate narrator, Police Officer Lockstock, tells us that nothing kills a show like ‘too much exposition’. ‘How about a terrible title?’ asks local urchin Little Sally).

Weaving the broadest slapstick humour into a grim, highly relevant and perhaps portentous Malthusian tale, Urinetown is a musical that never stops poking fun at its own genre and unlike so many of that ilk, resists the temptation to eventually embrace its clich├ęs in the final act. Driving it all along is Mark Hollmann’s excellent score – ranging from gospel pastiche, to rousing ‘Les Mis’ chorus – and witty lyrics. Some of the songs may be a little forgettable, but they’re still perfectly pitched within the show.

Jamie Lloyd’s direction, aided by Soutra Gilmour’s wonderfully dingy design, is razor sharp and Ann Yee’s choreography is at times a comic masterclass all of its own. Musical director Alan Williams deliverers not just an excellent band, but also, in the big second act showstopper ‘Run, Freedom, Run’, quite simply some of the tightest and most polished chorus singing to be found on a West End stage.

The cast is of the very highest quality – Jenna Russell is predictably wonderful as the fearsome gatekeeper of the urinal Miss Pennywise, while Slinger's Lockstock relishes many of the best lines. Karis Jack’s Little Sally and Mark Meadows’ sleazy senator deserve special mentions, as does an exceptionally strong ensemble.

Urinetown is modern musical theatre at its very best.

Booking to 24th January 2015 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you mention Ann Yee's choreography - I haven't see any other reviews that mention it and it is truly excellent.