Urinetown, the Musical

Players by the Sea’s final show of the 2008-2009 season opened last weekend and will be on stage at 106 Sixth Street North in Jacksonville Beach until June 20th. Urinetown, the Musical by Greg Kotis and Mark Holman, was nominated for ten Tony Awards and winner of three. It is probably the funniest musical done in this area in many a day, and if you love satirical comedy, you will love this show.
Urinetown is narrated by Police Officer Lockstock played by David Sacks with his marvelous booming voice and menacing looks. His narration is assisted by Little Sally, played by La Villa 7th grader, Katie Sacks. (Yes, you guessed right, this is David’s daughter). Look around the stage will see another talented Sacks, son Nick who plays Bobby the Stockfish. I had not seen the young Miss Sacks since her PBST debut in Accidental Felon in 2006, and she has become a fine young actress and singer in three short years.
Our narrators tell the story of the residents of a city where water is so scarce that using private toilets is a crime. The incomparable Amy Allen Farmer as Mrs. Pennywise warden of the dirtiest public urinal in town, sings “It’s a Privilege to Pee” a song that tells us that in order to pee, residents are coerced to pay exorbitant fees.
Caldwell B. Cladwell (Bill Ratcliff) is the corrupt owner of Urine Good Company that owns and operates all the public facilities, including the one featured in the show, Amenity #9, run by Mrs. Pennywise and her assistant Bobby Strong. Strong falls in love with Caldwell’s naive and idealist good looking daughter Hope and leads the pay to pee people to rebel. Well, that is as far as I will take you in the plot but if I have wet (pun intended) your appetite, go to www.playersbythesea.org should you want more story details before you decide to see the show.
There are 30 actors in this show, all zany characters I would love to cover in detail but space is limited. If you want to enjoy the talents of two of the leading characters, you will have to see this show since both are leaving town when it closes. Russell Hainline is the handsome and charismatic Bobby Strong. You may have seen him in Theatre Jacksonville’s Once Upon a Mattress and Seussical and PBTS’s Bat Boy. After graduating from Duke University, he is now pursuing his Master’s in Theatre History from Ohio State University. His is a tour de force performance and when he sings (along with all the poor people), the song, “Run, Freedom, Run” the audience goes wild. It is a real show stopper.
Tess Mattingly as Hope Cladwell is a real find. Attractive, with great stage presence and a beautiful voice, she will blow you away with her talent. Ms. Mattingly is from Jacksonville but her only stage appearances were at Stanton High. She has spent the last four years in the Florida State Theatre program. She leaves to pursue her Masters as well somewhere out in Texas.
There are so many over-the-top performances in this show that will keep you in stitches. Playing the “Poor” are: Amy Allen Farmer, Russell Hainline, Katie Sacks, Charlie White, Tyler Ross, Noelle Jaycox, Miranda Lawson, Gary Baker, Laura Mauldin, Nick Sacks, Mogan Williams, Jennifer Walls, Christy Mull, Taylor Smith and Dominque Lawson.
On the other side of town, the “Rich” include Bill Ratliff, Tess Mattingly, David Sacks, T.R.Hainline, Del Austin, Jeff Wells, Lisa Lagrand, Neal Thorburn, Colleen Doherty, Kat McLeod (who is also stage manager), Geoff Weeks, Melody Choate, Erwin Gawera, Tiernan Middleton and James Holder.
There are many other stars connected with this show. The Musical Direction by Aaron Marshall and Bryant Miano, with such powerful solos and ensemble work was excellent. The hidden orchestra (they were behind the set, well actually right behind urinal # 9), included Richard Lastrapes (Saxophone), Larisa Melkumonva(Bass), Bryant Miano (Keyboard) and Mike Tillis (Percussion) and they were superb.
A name you will see more and more in theatre programs in the future is Matthew Imm, who designed the set and lighting. He is currently in the technical theatre program at FCCJ, and has a bright future in his craft.
Lee Hamby did not have enough to do directing the upcoming Hair, opening at the end of July at PBTS, so he designed ALL the costumes and was production manager of this show as well. One of my favorite choreographers, Niki Stokes has created some exciting dance routines that use the entire stage area of Players, even spilling out into the audience.
Let me tell you the good news and the bad news about Director Shirley Sacks. The good news is that Shirley is probably one of the most sought after directors in this area. There has been nothing but winners on her score sheet. Next up for her is, Beauty and the Beast at the Wilson Center in July. The bad news? Mrs.Sacks is an award winning actress but between her family, directing and running the drama department at Stanton Prep, she has no time to perform herself. Shirley and Stanton Co-worker Jeff Grove directed the Florida Premiere of this play at Stanton High school and performed two shows before an audience totaling 3,000 people. In the PBST program, Shirley graciously credits Mr. Grove with many of the details and staging you will see in this production.
A couple of final notes on Urinetown, the Musical. Despite the title, there are not any off color situations or swear words in the script. All the songs in Urinetown are a parody of a past Broadway show or stage-musical style. Just for fun, when you see the show, see how many you can recognize. Look for Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story just to name three. In reading the biographies in the program, I think I can safely say, this production would not have been possible were it not for the participation of current and former students of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Stanton College Preparatory. Their contribution in talent to the local theatre scene is invaluable.
Warning: Players by The Sea Musicals usually sell out so don’t wait, make a reservation immediately, at 249- 0289. Players won’t make you pay to pee, at the intermission, but you may be approached by a one of the poor actors for some spare change that is being collected to continue the improvement of the lobby, so if you are approached with “Brother, can you spare a dime”, be generous.