Thursday, February 4, 2010

Urinetown, BMT, Directed by Spencer Smith, Grantham Theatre, St Catharines, 04.02.10

As one cast member described it, this 'exceedingly metatheatrical' musical delivers: with witty lyrics, an amusingly taboo premise, a creative examination of the contradictions and exploitive practices of multinational corporations, not to mention a sardonic sending up of the shmaltzy expectations around how musicals should generate affect ('it has to be a hopeful ending'), the piece is brimming with potential. Smith has done a very good job at creating a vibrant choreography that works for the cast and keeps the audience engaged throughout, with a dynamic and rythmic understanding of space and composition that suggests that this young artist should definitely do this kind of work again. Also very effective are the comedic set ups, prat falls, and sight gags that are paraded before us at satifsyingly regular intervals. Apparently he hopes to be New York-bound to study the form further, and I wish him luck.

This is BMT's most successful show to date of the ones I've seen, with reduced numbers on stage leading to more controlled and clean stages images as well as much more effective storytelling. The chorus is energetic and committed throughout, save a slowish start in the opening number. Everyone on stage has at least a moment, with some of my favourites including: Celine Allen and Lauren Beaton's vocal work, Emerson Ross' rabbit moment, Sarah Latke's clear and comic physicality, Alex Best's confident relationship with the audience, Christi Musico's engagement of the audience, Ryan Blair's wrestling of the sock puppet, Mary Gray acting from the chair, Andrew Sutherland's napoleanic swagger, Adrian Petry's sustained vibrato. The cast deals with gusto and glee with the moments of celebratory violence toward the end of the piece, making me feel like I was watching a Grand Guignol show in 1890s Paris.

I mean, how can you not enjoy a musical that involves the torture and defenestration of blow up dolls?

With their new off-campus digs, one gets a sense of this being a producing organization beginning to grow into their own. My challenge to the group: either find as interesting a musical as Urinetown for next year, or write your own. Please don't lapse back into the ever so cheesy and un-ironized american musicals: successfully tackling a piece like Urinetown is a testament to your creative and critical intelligence.

No comments:

Post a Comment