Thursday, November 2, 2006
Los Angeles, CA
|John Hemphill||Bobby Strong||Kelly Lohman||Hope Cladwell|
|Matthew Ashford||Officer Lockstock||Rona Benson||Little Sally|
|Norman Large||Caldwell B. Cladwell||Amanda Carlin||Penelope Pennywise|
|Steven Connor||Senator Fipp||Larry Lederman||Old Man Strong|
|Rob Kahn||Officer Barrel||Steven Hack||Mr. McQueen|
|Vanessa Whitney||Little Becky Two Shoes||Liz Herron||Soupy Sue|
|Annie Abbott||Josephine Strong||Melanie Rockwell||Mrs. Millennium (replacement)|
|James Calvert||Tiny Tom||Robert Briscoe Evans||Robby the Stockfish|
|Mitch Stark||Hot Blades Harry||Michael Thatcher||Billy Boy Bill (replacement)|
Sarah Lowe (swing)
(It was rather appropriate that this very small theatre only had one restroom.)
This was my second time seeing Urinetown, and I don't know if it's because I was more familiar with the show this time around, if it's the fact that it wasn't held in an outdoor theatre near an airport, or if it was because most of these actors are established and accomplished (many with previous or current recurring roles on TV). Perhaps a big part of it, too, was the fact that this was held in a small, intimate theatre with 99 seats, and the actors did not use microphones. Or that I sat in the front row.
Also since this was in a small theatre, the sets were scaled down and many modifications to choreography had to be made. (This is in contrast to the production I saw in San Diego where the choreography was almost identical to the Broadway production -- according to Norman Large.)
Anyway, I found this production hilariously funny, and the comedy was executed with excellent timing. It also helped that all 99 seats were filled. I don't think any of the comical moments fell flat, unlike San Diego where the humongous Starlight Bowl was only about 1/3 full.
Some of the funniest/most memorable moments:
At the beginning of the "Hydraulics" dialogue scene, Lockstock was lying sprawled on top of one of the elevated parts of the set, leisurely perusing the Playbill.
In the dialogue following "Follow Your Heart", when Bobby and Hope are saying good-night, Hope says, "Good night, Bobby --" and then Bobby kisses her for a few seconds before she finishes, "Strong." Then Bobby says, "Good night ..." and gestures that it's her turn to give her name.
A great little ensemble touch was during "Look at the Sky" and the Act 1 finale when they would all don very dark sunglasses as they were staring up at the "heart" in the sky.
After the very impressive "Run, Freedom, Run" and the huge ovation the actors received, the actors remained sitting on their chairs with their arms held up in the air. And as they remained in that position, Sally says, "What do we do now?"
In the dialogue scene before "Don't Be the Bunny", when Pennywise shows up at UGC Headquarters and there is that soap-opera-like saxophone tune is heard, the same is done for Cladwell's reaction, but Norman Large's expression was so overdramatic that it was very funny.
At the beginning of "Don't Be the Bunny", Norman stuck out his upper teeth to emulate a rabbit chewing, which was a hilarious sight.
In "Snuff That Girl", the half of the actors had a snapping duel with each other half.
Probably one of the funniest moments of the show, despite the mood of the situation, was before "Tell Her I Love Her" -- right before Little Sally began singing about Bobby's last words, a spotlight came on, but it was (deliberately) shining just a couple feet in front of her. So, Rona Benson stood up straighter, and took a large single step into the spotlight. The same thing happened in the second half of the song.
Norman Large was a perfect Cladwell, largely because he was so well able to portray slimy greediness (very much like his Thénardier that I got to know so well in the 3rd National Tour of Les Misérables). I thought he was downright hilarious when I saw him San Diego, but I think he took it up a few more notches in this production, being a lot more animated and exuberant in his movements and dancing. He was so much fun to watch. (I kind of did miss the downright hilarious touch to Cladwell's deadly fall that he did in San Diego. In that production, he let out a long "aaaaaahhhhhhh" as he was falling, and midway stopped to take a deep breath before continuing his fall [which he did here]. But in San Diego, after he stopped screaming and you thought he was dead, there was a VERY long silence on stage. Then, just as someone started to say, "Now what?", Norman started screaming again for a while longer before he finally hit the ground. Ha ha.)
Rona Benson was a pretty good Little Sally, but she didn't have nearly the spunkiness that the Little Sally I saw in San Diego had. She also had a little difficulty singing the higher notes, especially in "Tell Her I Love Her" when she sang in duet with John Hemphill. But she still had a lot of attitude, encompassing both youthful innocence and righteousness that made her fit right in with the rebel poor.
John Hemphill was a very strong singer and actor, especially giving Bobby a very headstrong way at going about life. One thing I noticed, though, was that it didn't look very natural for him to "conduct" the "choir" of the ensemble in "Run, Freedom, Run" -- but it was still very amusing. He also managed to continue singing pretty well when he started coughing after inhaling his saliva at one point during the Act 1 finale, and aside from his facial expression showing he was struggling a little, you couldn't really tell as he was singing in counterpoint with Kelly Lohman.
Kelly Lohman is a lovely and strong soprano, with a very youthful quirkiness that reminded me a tiny bit of Jennifer Laura Thompson (original Broadway Hope Cladwell). She also had a very funny way of going about her lines that brought out the irony of the comic situations. She and John Hemphill paired well together, and "Follow Your Heart" was very sweet (as well as hilarious).
Amanda Carlin (who I thought looked familiar, and after finding out about the slew of guest TV appearances she's had, I best remembered her as Rachel's OB-GYN when Rachel was having Ross' baby) was a great Pennywise, and I especially liked how natural her urban accent was. For the most part, she had a great strong voice, except for a few times in "Privilege to Pee" where she had to belt some really high notes. A couple of them she didn't attempt to belt, and took it up to her head voice instead. But she has great stage presence that made her lots of fun to watch.
In general, I love this show. It's so cleverly written, very witty, and thrives on the fact that it pokes fun at musicals as a genre, as well as poking fun at itself. Not to mention how they parody a number of other musicals while telling their story.
I also love the message that it sends, that our way of life is not sustainable, and that we have to remember that every action has a consequence. Despite my liberal political tendencies, I could see the difficult position that Cladwell was in. Yes, he was tyrannical in the way that he managed the public amenities, and used methods to exploit the poor and used profits to live in luxury. But he also did see the need to regulate the use of a precious commodity (in this case, water) and understood that the free use of it like Bobby and the rebel poor were fighting for would destroy the environment. In this way, this musical is also a little commentary on our political system and how the two sides in our mostly bi-partisan politics have valid arguments (well, to a point).