Should you pay to pee?
Should you pay to pee?
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Urinetown: The Musical
By Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann
Directed by Stephanie Farhood
SecondStory Repertory
Through April 26


This 2002 Tony Award winner is a spoof musical, including yanking the chain of all the major clich├ęs we've come to expect from musical theater. There's the big bad corporate meanies lording it over the "rest." In this case, a drought has caused such extreme water shortages that even toilet water has to be rationed. There's the romantic couple, a daughter of the head corporate meanie and the son of one of the "rest." There are big musical showstopper numbers with the whole cast. Some musical numbers deliberately steal the styles of many other musicals you might recognize.

It's all done with a wink and a nod. A narrator (Mark Waldstein) helpfully leads you into the show, along with a "little girl" (Julie Drummond) who adds pert details, as they set the scene. A pretty large cast presents exuberant song and dance numbers. The opening number describes how everyone has to pay to use the toilet and it's against the law to eliminate in the bushes. An older man resists and is hauled off to "Urinetown," which is not the same thing as Urinetown: The Musical, you see. "No one knows what really happens in Urinetown."

The production at SecondStory Repertory is great fun. Stephanie Farhood, the director, gets great work out of the entire ensemble, and each person throws him or herself into the emotions of the moment. The facial expressions and even tiny details of interaction add much amusement throughout. Choreography by Kristin Culp is vigorous, very creative and expressive.

Musically, the whole is generally better than the parts, and it can be a little hard to hear the soloist above the entire ensemble, partly due to the fact that this theater doesn't electrically amplify its singers. It's one of the things I like so much about SecondStory, but in this case, maybe you could ask the ensemble to sing more softly and the band to play more gently while there are solos within ensemble songs.

There are indeed some excellent singers. Brooke Hills as the meanie's daughter has a lovely voice, put to good use. Vince Wingerter, the boy, last seen here in A Chorus Line, also has a strong voice and presence. Julie Drummond as Little Sally tends to steal the show with her earnestly funny portrayal. And Alex Garnett does steal the show as a corporate sleaze who has almost too much fun doing dirty work!

Set design by Maridee Slater has ingenious touches including a neon sign for the "Secret Hideout" that is anything but secret. The small band, led by Kimberly Dare, does a great job accompanying. Fun technical touches include a demonic spotlighter who has to put on a headset and amplify voices coming from the mystical Urinetown, which ultimately ends up being beyond the grave. Costumes by Kellylea Clark-Johnson work well, with the one exception of the daughter's gown, which just looks ill-fitting and weirdly cut. It ends up unfortunately standing out because the rest work well.

You're in good company if you visit Urinetown: The Musical. For more information, go to www.secondstoryrep.org or call 425-881-6777. Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.