Playhouse Merced's 'Urinetown' a musical menagerie

Sun-Star CorrespondentApril 12, 2013 

Water shortages, public amenities, and a maniacal supervisor collide in comedic satire this weekend as "Urinetown: The Musical" opens at Playhouse Merced.

"Don't let the name fool you, it's a phenomenal musical," said director Joseph Hypes. "In this show we challenged our cast to act, dance and sing in about eight different musical theater styles.

"Each musical number is like a different musical that every theater goer has come to love. There are so many times the audience can sit and watch and say 'ooh, that's totally "Les Miserables" ' or 'ooh, they're doing the rumble from "West Side Story," ' " Hypes said.

"Urinetown" focuses on a small town, where a 20-year water shortage has allowed a large corporation, Urine Good Company, to start charging people to go to the bathroom. If caught 'going for free,' residents are sent to the mysterious Urinetown.

Bobby Strong begins an uprising against Urine Good Company leader Caldwell B. Cladwell, while also contending with his crazed supervisor Penelope Pennywise and falling in love with Cladwell's daughter, Hope.

"In a dystopian world, a 20-year drought has forced the government to ban all private toilets, leaving private companies to charge what they wish for use of their amenities," actor Stephen Mouillesseaux said. "After they've had enough, the people decide to revolt. Havoc ensues.

"This show not only pokes fun at all the popular musicals from every genre, it even finds a way to poke fun at itself," Mouillesseaux said. "It's hilarious to experience those moments."

Hypes loves the numerous references to famous musicals of the past.

"A forbidden love story forms between Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell in a 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'West Side Story' kind of love, which leads Bobby to stand up for what he believes in and start a 'Les Miserables'-like revolution against Urine Good Company, or UGC for short," he said.

"Lots of comedy, music and dance with references to so many beloved musicals: 'Fiddler on the Roof,' 'Chicago,' 'The Cradle Will Rock,' and 'Guys and Dolls' that carry the action through to some surprising twists as we see who will win this ultimate rumble."

Written in 1998 by newcomers Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, "Urinetown" made its Broadway debut on Sept. 20, 2001, subsequently winning three 2002 Tony awards including Best Original Musical Score. The show ran for 964 performances before closing January 2004.

Playhouse Merced's production is directed by Hypes and the music director is Darrel Lingenfelter. The two also directed "Sweeney Todd," "Something's Afoot" and "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka" at Playhouse Merced.

The cast includes Corey Strauss as Bobby Strong, Liz Belloli as Hope Cladwell, Dianne Kocher as Penelope Pennywise and Stephen Mouillesseaux as Caldwell B. Cladwell.

"I love when a show comes together," Hypes said. "There is an amazing tech staff at Playhouse, the show combined with what the designers of the set, costumes, and lights have done have turned this into a must see show of the season. This is a musical you'll love, and will probably want to come and see more than once. It's that good.

"We've assembled a stellar cast from all over the Central Valley, and, no kidding, they look amazing, sound amazing, and have nailed the art of comedic timing," Hypes said.

The show is so easy to love and have fun with, he said, that it promises to be a great evening at the theater.

'Urinetown: The Musical'

WHEN: Today through April 28; Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Playhouse Merced, 452 W. Main Street TICKETS: $8-$20

CALL: (209) 725-8587


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