Satirical, irreverent, and beautifully crafted, Just So’s production of Urinetown (The Musical) burst onto the Byre Stage during this year’s On The Rocks Festival. Directed by Ryan Hay, Urinetown balanced some outstanding set design with a number of solid performances, yet was unfortunately let down due to issues with the show’s audio and a few uneven numbers.
Before anything else, it is important to note that Urinetown’s strongest feature was its set design. Through the use of multilevel scaffolding, tiling and running water on stage, the production managed to capture the cartoonish, yet grim, world of the show. In a town where set design is regularly neglected, the attention to detail and sheer ingenuity of the set should be applauded.
On the performance side of things, the show had a solid base in the form of Jason Gallant’s Officer Lockstock, Hannah Lawson’s Hope Cladwell and Connor Powell’s Coldwell Cladwell. These performances succeeded primarily because they tapped in to the play’s key strength – the way in which it balances political commentary with absurdist humour. Bringing a larger than life persona to his character, Connor Powell dominated any scene he was in, while Hannah Lawson’s subversive cheer tried to force the dark world of Urinetown into line with her naïve fairy-tale world view. Yet it was Jason Gallant as the fourth wall breaking Officer Lockstock who stole the show, deadpanning his way into my heart. This was boosted by strong direction by Ryan Hay, with large group numbers feeling well constructed and actor’s easily tapping into the dystopian chaos of the book.
Unfortunately, this was in part undercut by a few issues. Problems with the audio meant that during the first act, Hannah Lawson was at times inaudible, with crackling over the speakers distracting from a lot of the action. Similarly, a number of the members of the ensemble were difficult to hear over the band. While most of the show’s numbers were competently performed (with good choreography and singing), a few stood out as clunky. This was most apparent in “Snuff That Girl” early in act two, which lacked the charisma of some of the show’s other songs, perhaps due to being one of the few songs without any of the main characters.
All in all, Urinetown was a solid show. Good performances and top quality set design were slightly hampered by audio problems and a few other issues, but not to the extent that the show was no longer enjoyable. With a strong book and good direction, Urinetown was certainly worth a watch.