‘Urinetown’: A feisty singing, dancing attack on greed

Hope Cladwell (Hannah Roberts Brown, seated center) is threatened by the locals, while Little Sally (Madisen Johnson, above right) tries to save her. (Jim Lowe / Staff photo)

MONTPELIER — Lost Nation Theater has another hit! “Urinetown” is a hilarious and touching song-and-dance musical about pee. Well, sort of. In fact, the 2001 hit Broadway musical with music by Mark Hollmann, lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, who also wrote the book, is a “Threepenny Opera”-like spoof of greed and capitalism. And Lost Nation Theater’s spectacular production, which previewed Thursday at City Hall Arts Center, will certainly provide red meat for the Capital City crowd in the times of Trump. The tale is delightfully macabre, the lyrics laugh-out-loud funny and the witty music in myriad styles accentuates the tale. The production by Montpelier’s professional theater was expertly and imaginatively directed by Sarah Jane Schostack, with effervescent musical direction by Mark Howard Hanson, and energetic, extravagant and occasionally over-the-top choreography by Stephen Dean Moore In an imagined world gripped by a 20-year drought, the water supply is controlled by the UGC (Urine Good Company) headed by the ridiculously corrupt Caldwell B. Cladwell (a deliciously evil Tim Tavcar). Cladwell has gained his millions charging folks to use public bathrooms — there are no private ones — and those who use the outdoors are arrested and sent to off the mysterious Urinetown. When Bobby Strong (a suitably handsome and earnest JP Colenta), a UCG employee, loses his father (William Pelton) to Urinetown, the young hero begins fomenting revolt. That is complicated when Hope (Hannah Roberts Brown in a truly blonde but sympathetic performance) returns from “the most expensive university in the world,” and she and Bobby instantly fall in love. That Hope is the daughter of the evil Cladwell creates a big problem for her and Bobby. They must each make a life-changing decision. Colenta and Brown proved fine singers with a real sense of comic timing. But the spice comes from the “real characters” given wonderful comic performances. Madisen Johnson was a riot as the feisty and fiery Little Sally who provides witty commentary throughout. Kathleen Keenan, Lost Nation’s producing artistic director as Penelope Pennywise, the UCG bathroom guard with a secret, was perfectly over the top, and sang up a storm. There were a couple of straight roles, well almost. Nick Wheeler unleashed irresistible sardonic humor as Officer Lockstock, who is also the narrator. G. Richard Ames was suitably amoral as the sleazy Senator Fipp. In fact, the entire cast was excellent. There were some preview night awkward moments, but few. The keyboard of the fine five-piece band often overpowered the quieter moments. These quirks are likely to disappear with subsequent performances. Lindsay Fuori’s set is suitably raw, appropriately lit by Thomas Gunn. Johanna Pan’s costumes were particularly illustrative. What made this production work was how all the elements came together as a consistent whole, thanks to fine direction. In fact, Lost Nation’s “Urinetown” is a deliciously off-kilter musical perfect for our times.   Lost Nation Theater Lost Nation Theater presents “Urinetown,” a musical comedy by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, May 31-June 17 at City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main St. in Montpelier. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, plus 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10-$35, with discounts for students and seniors; call 802-229-0492, or go online to www.lostnationtheater.org. jim.lowe @timesargus.com

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