IRVING -- Great works of art live up to the time test, proving as relevant (or more so) than when they were first given to the world. Although it has only been 10 years since Urinetown: The Musical debuted on Broadway, the work feels even more prescient given current political, social and ecological climes.
That's saying something for a musical that famously broke out from the New York International Fringe Festival, and made it to off-Broadway and then Broadway at a tumultuous time in New York, opening a few weeks after 9-11. At that point, its dystopian view of the future didn't seem so far-fetched. Now, given everything that has happened since 2007, the musical's satirical targets, including capitalism, socialism and corporate greed, brought on by devastating drought, hit home even more.
Score one for the timing of the producers at Irving's ICT MainStage, where the musical is playing in a good, but not great, production directed by Chris Robinson, at the Irving Arts Center.
A solid production of Urinetown (music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann, book by Greg Kotis) is harder to pull off than other shows. Inspired by such political musicals as Weill/Brecht's The Threepenny Opera and Marc Blitztein's The Cradle Will Rock, as well as being of parody of musical theater itself, Urinetown gives us an America in which water is scarce and citizens have to pay to use public toilets, all managed by the corporation UGC (Urine Good Company).
The comic timing and intent has to be right on. Here's where the lead women in this cast -- Caroline Rivera as Penelope Pennywise; Michelle Foard as Hope Cladwell, the daughter of UGC's CEO; and Keslie Ward as one of musical theater's most darling narrators, Little Sally -- score big. They also have the voices of the company.
Mike Hathaway, as the other narrator, Officer Lockstock, has a tough job as the sort of meta-emcee, and his take is of an outwardly butch cop who attempts to hide the closet musical-theater diva wannabe underneath. He knocks it out on the patter ditty Cop Song. As the romantic lead Bobby Strong, Kyle Montgomery isn't quite there.
Tory Padden's costumes add in a hint of steampunk, and music director Mark Miller leads a four-member orchestra at stage right (although why they're not using the Dupree Theater's orchestra pit is a mystery).
Choreographer Eddie Floresca has extra fun with the riffs on gospel and other musicals, although the West Side Story bit falls flat.
It's not definitive, but ICT still impresses with a challenging musical. Considering the timing in this political climate, Urinetown is more of a privilege to see than ever.