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Urinetown: The Musical

Urinetown: The Musical. Music by Mark Hollmann, lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and book by Kotis. Directed by Danny CozartBerkeley Playhouse, 2931 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA.

Berkeley Playhouse has a rousing, energetic hit on its hands. Urinetown: The Musical, which won three Tony Awards and started its national tour here in San Francisco in 2003 is back and better than ever with a crack technical crew and enthusiastic performances by the cast of 16. The play is tailor-made for astute Bay Area audiences: a socially aware satire on corporate greed and environmental awareness combined with spoofs of notable Broadway giants like Les Miz, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

Little Sally  (BRITTNEY MONROE. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Little Sally (BRITTNEY MONROE. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Urinetown: The Musical is set in the bleak future where water is in short supply and the resident’s public toilet usage insidiously controlled by the evil UGC (Urine Good Company). A young bathroom attendant decides to challenge authority and sparks a revolution for free peeing. There’s plenty of comic intrigue, forbidden love and rousing musical numbers to keep your attention.

Caldwell B. Cladwell (PAUL PLAIN) looms over UGC headquarters

Caldwell B. Cladwell (PAUL PLAIN) looms over UGC headquarters. Photo by Ben Krantz.

The story is comically narrated by Officer Lockstock (Matt Davis) withy comic interjections by Little Sally (Britney Monroe). Lockstock is the enforcer on the local level and not the nice guy he seems. Little Sally, a precocious street urchin, just might be a spoof on Gavroche from Les Miz. Jessica Coker is wonderful as Penelope Pennywise, the tough, jaded warden of the pay-to-pee urinal. She and the ensemble of the poor sing of their plight in “Its’s a Privilege to Pee”.

Hope (ANDREA J. LOVE) finds Bobby (NIKITA BURSHTEYN)'s heart. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Hope (ANDREA J. LOVE) finds Bobby (NIKITA BURSHTEYN)’s heart. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Then there’s the Cladwell’s;  father Caldwell (Paul Plain), the evil owner of UGC and exploiter of the poor, and his daughter Hope, the naïve ex-graduate of the Most Expensive University in the World. Andrea Love has just the right touches of innocence and boldness required when she falls for Bobby Short, the dashing romantic hero. Nikita Burshteyn nearly steals the show in a star-making performance as Bobby. An athletic comic actor with a stunning tenor, Burshteyn is the universal underdog hero we can all root for.

 Bobby Strong (NIKITA BURSHTEYN) and company rebel. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Bobby Strong (NIKITA BURSHTEYN) and company rebel. Photo by Ben Krantz.

The musical numbers, excellently choreographed by Allison Paraiso offer a nod and wink to Fiddler, West Side Story and Les Miz. “Run Freedom Run”, sung by Bobby, is a gospel-like call to arms reminiscent of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” song from Guys and Dolls. Michael Patrick Wiles’s orchestrations are wonderful. Director Danny Cozart moves the production with skill and energy on  Brian Watson’s beautiful set. Brittany Mellerson set the grimy, dramatic atmosphere with her lighting design. Ellen Howes has created playful costumes for both the ultra poor and ultra rich.

Penelope Pennywise (JESSICA COKER) knows it's a 'Privilege to Pee'. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Penelope Pennywise (JESSICA COKER) knows it’s a ‘Privilege to Pee’. Photo by Ben Krantz.

Urinetown: The Musical is a hit, just as quirky and original as it was when it premiered in 2001. As we become less and less conscientious about the environment, the possibility of a drought, as witnessed the past 5 years by California, seem more and more imminent. Sometimes satire becomes premonition.

Performances run through April 30th, 2017      www.berkeleyplayhouse.org            510.845.8542 x351