Urinetown, The Musical – Hills Musical Company

Urinetown, The Musical – Hills Musical Company

The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is often paraphrased by the ill-attributed quote that “life is pointless and then you die”. Philosophy texts also tell us that Heidegger (1889-1976) who, by all Pythonistic accounts, was a “boozy beggar”, made powerful critiques of the “levelling down” of mass society. The writings of Dostoevsky (1821-1881) described the “bourgeois emptiness” of the “managerial class” along with the “paranoia and mistrust” when life is regulated and controlled by “faceless bureaucrats”.

As depressing as all this existentialist stuff seems, Monty Python was able to get a laugh out of the everyday trials and tribulations of moral existence. So, what has this got to do with the ultra-dystopian and terribly named musical “Urinetown”? At least this philosophical question has a straight answer. It is very, very funny, and The Hills Musical Company (“HMC”) serve it up with a level of tight, impressive professionalism that has become their reputational trademark.

The plot takes place in a setting of despair and exploitation of “the little people” by the “big corporation” and their ilk who are in it simply for “the cash”. No plot spoilers here, we all know the genre and are familiar with how it ends. Or are we? It is not too much information to say that Nietzsche gets a good run for his money. Go and see the show to fill in the blanks . . .

The HMC has managed to get an “A-List” of performers on stage and in the pit. A quick look at the program shows 2 x Stefanoffs sharing the Musical Direction. The big tip in Adelaide is that anything with at least one individual of that name in the credits somewhere assures quality. True to form and reputation, the music was tight, classy and technically excellent. Ben and Kristen had an exceptionally talented band of musicians with them, and they dedicated their performance to the memory of the late Dominic Meehan, a musical colleague tragically taken from us earlier this year.

The frenetic pace up on stage was expertly directed by Ruby Pinkerton, who along with choreographer Jemma Allen had the cast leave it all out there for us to enjoy. One could almost see the mist of calories burned relentlessly by all the cast from start to finish.

Andrew Crispe opened the show as “The Narrator” and immediately showed his considerable on-stage presence, blurring the line between theatre and reality. His wonderful baritone voice fresh from Opera SA combined with his penchant for comedy, delivering a standout performance from start to finish.

Andrew’s character of “Officer Lockstock” combined well with two “sidekicks”. Katy Driver as “Little Sally” provides a perfect representation of “us” as she asks the questions that need to be asked. Her metaphor of innocence and trusting naivety (assisted by her ever-present Teddy Bear) was well executed as she joined Andrew in breaking the fourth wall with frivolous abandon. Lockstock’s other sidekick “Officer Barrel” was also well played by Sam Davy. Two dastardly villains “working for the man” and just loving it all a little too much.

Liam Phillips as “Bobby Strong” presented us with a well thought out performance of the classic revolutionary. His comedic delivery, and his ability to hold the seriousness of his character at the same time was impressive and got lots of laughs. Megan Davidson as “Hope Caldwell” combined her initial presentation of the sweet, innocent office-helper into a – well, we will never really define where her character ended up. It was a weird but impressive exercise in character development that would have her sitting comfortably as both wannabe baddy as well as sweet heroine. One can well imagine her character held in the palm of King Kong’s hand or tied to the railway tracks. Josh Barkley and Sarah Hamilton rounded out the principals with their wonderfully presented versions of the archetypal corporate villain “Caldwell B Caldwell” and “Penelope Pennywise” the urinal supervisor.

Yes, the title gives it all away. This show is superficially about “taking a pee”, but more accurately, about the dark politics behind it all. The story touches on climate change, social degradation and the power imbalances in society. How can this be “funny”? Well, also true to the title, the show also completely “takes the P#*s” out of things we hold dear to us, such as social justice and the efficient management of our current climate disaster we all face. Watch out for the myriad of theatrical references to other shows (“Les Mis” and “West Side Story” being the most obvious). This is all done with a stellar cast of well drilled, talented performers who will have you laughing and whooping until you spill any beverage you may purchase at the well-stocked theatre shop from the charming and welcoming HMC committee and their volunteers.  

“Urinetown” is an enjoyable show that makes you laugh as well as think. It had the usual “opening night glitches” such as sound delivery and a few stumbled lines but these were minor in the scheme of things. This is Adelaide Musical Theatre at its most entertaining.

Well played, HMC!

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