Chicago’s "Urinetown" is a hit!

The Chicago production of the musical "Urinetown" is a hit! Just check out some of these reviews:

Chicago Sun-Times

"Not only does the show look fabulous in the intimate, brick-walled, 300-seat confines of the Mercury, but it features a hugely talented cast possessed of amphetaminelike energy and a perfect understanding of how to attack this blend of tongue-in-cheek satire and theatrical valentine. Tom Mullen's sharp, economical direction doesn't miss a trick or a piece of shtick, and he sees to it that every clever lyric is understood. Brian Leoffler's wildly funny and exuberant choreographic pastiches are priceless. And Michael Sobie's musical direction is exceptional, both when it comes to the four-piece band he makes sure sounds like a full orchestra and the cast of 16 whose soaring voices blend in the most gorgeous harmonies, whether they are singing a song as stringent as one by Kurt Weill or as fervent as a gospel hymn. And this show does run the gamut, from soft-shoe and ethnic romp to power ballad, love song and inspirational anthem."

"The male lead comes in the form of Bobby Strong (the golden-voiced Michael Buchanan, whose eyebrows are a performance in themselves), the young man who stirs things up after his father (Joseph Anthony Foronda) gets taken away for relieving himself in public. Bobby's true love is none other than Hope Cladwell (the silvery-voiced, sweet-faced Tamara Spiewak, a girl full of surprises), who also happens to be the daughter of the hateful CEO of UGC (deft work by Michael Accardo), and a rather scandalous "lost" mother, Penny Pennywise (the brash and belt-voiced Christine Sherrill)."
Chicago Critic

"This exuberant show will leave you basking in the glory of the stage’s power to entertain."

"Urinetown’s finest moments are ensemble drawn numbers with exuberant dance and rich choral singing (the Marc Blitzstein effect). We relate to Jon Frazier as Officer Lockstock, the dedicated officer and narrator. Frazier brings a campy presence and works well with Roni Geva’s Little Sally, the Annie type inquisitive child who comments on the shows action with Lockstock. Christine Sherrill belts several tunes in the best Ethel Merman tradition as Penelope Pennywise. Michael Accardo as Caldwell sells his greedy philosophy with campy humor. Tamara Spiewak as Hope Caldwell is funny and delivers her numbers with deadpan humor and sincerity. Michael Buchanan is the cute, boyish ‘hero’ Bobby Strong. He expels a fine vocal range as well as convincing low-keyed activist. He leads the fluid ensemble of ‘poor folks’ who perform and land the show’s several energetic numbers."

"Kudos to the Mercury Theater for landing Urinetown -- it just may be playing for a long successful run if the young, hip crowd discovers this cute, high voltage musical satire. For the top ticket price of only $48.50, Urinetown offers a Loop caliber show for a lot less."
Chicago Tribune

"Mullen's dedicated Chicago 'Urinetown' is a full-blown rendition of the 2002 Tony Award-winning spoof musical about a corporate takeover of urinals, as written and composed by the brilliant former Chicagoans Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann. It is well sung and staged with attention to detail. It is populated by professionals from Chicago and well beyond, and performed with eye-popping gusto. And it nearly busts its collective gut trying to please."

"Already, there's one pitch-perfect performance in Roni Geva's Little Sally. And as the sweet ingenue Hope Cladwell, Tamara Spiewak is most charming."
TimeOut Chicago

"Even though this vastly entertaining, new, local version offers nothing Broadway’s didn’t, it hardly suffers from the fact that it’s a virtual replication."

"This highly caffeinated production..features a dynamo ensemble. For examples, see wonderfully wily, steroidal tenor Buchanan as dreamy rebel leader Bobby Strong; screechy, pencil-necked Rob Lindley, who punctuates his managerial wet-noodle role with an exclamation point; and, best of all, Roni Geva as Little Sally, the conscientious street urchin who helps narrate the show. Her scrawny, wide-eyed take on the character is, like the musical performances, pitch-perfect."
The Phoenix

"This is great material for actors to let loose their comedic side, and the cast here uniformly rises to the occasion, attacking the material with an energy that's infectious."

"The show works as an entertaining musical with memorable numbers and a cast of good singers. Since there are many references to other musicals throughout this outlandish mix, it ends up being...a refreshing diversion that can appeal to both fans of musicals and those who enjoy mocking the genre's clichés."

""Urinetown" is wickedly tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, but it's also a darn good musical. Tom Mullen's direction of the Tony-winning musical by Greg Kotis (book and lyrics) and Mark Hollmann (music) is pitch-perfect. The dance numbers are Busby Berkeley spectacular, albeit without the feathered headdresses. The dialogue is rich with imagery, like this: 'Any moment the cops are going to come in and bust us up like a bunch of busted up cantaloupes.' The music ranges from belting gospel to "Titanic"-romantic love duets. Whoa, Dog, there's even a rap number. Word."

"The story is flushed -- I mean fleshed -- out when handsome Bobby Strong (Michael Buchanan, a young actor with a voice like a clarion, a face like a cherub and a dancing prowess that combines the glee of Ray Bolger with the precision of 'Thriller'-era Michael Jackson) stands up for downtrodden bladders. The cast is superb. As Miss Pennywise, a Cladwell employee with a dark secret, Christine Sherrill keeps the masses in line with dominatrix-like authority, brandishing rubber gloves and scrub brushes in a manner evocative of activities not necessarily related to cleaning. Watch for Joseph Anthony Foronda in several roles. He's dancing up the same, irresistible storm he did when he first hit town years ago as the Engineer in 'Miss Saigon.'"

"'Urinetown' deserves to be a splash hit."

Chicago Reader

"A talented cast of local and Broadway performers makes this a largely entertaining evening."

"As Hope and Bobby, Tamara Spiewak and Michael Buchanan deliver satisfyingly economical performances in pitch-perfect voices."
Broadway World

"Move over Wicked, there is a new smash hit show in town and it is absolutely brilliant. Urinetown the Musical is up and running at the Mercury Theatre and audiences are lining up to get in."

"Buchanan is born to play the role of Bobby. His acting is unblemished and vocals are magnificent. His homage to Wicked during “Look at the Sky” has the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter. Tamara Spiewak and Michael Accardo give solid performances as Hope and Caldwell."

"Roni Geva’s portrayal of Little Sally steals the show. Her child-like mannerisms are dead-on and her comedic timing is flawless. Adding to an already all-star cast is an ensemble that simply impresses. Each and every one of them sound and look terrific."

"Before you spend more of your time trying to secure tickets to Wicked, put the phone down, save some money, and rush over to the Mercury Theatre. Urinetown is a fantastic evening of musical theatre at its best. “Urine” for a magnificent treat!"

"I tend to like plays and theater, but when someone says musical, I'm sort of on the fence. Like some, hate some. But then I checked out Urinetown last weekend, and it cracked me up. Loved it. If all musicals were like this, sign me up."
AOL CityGuide

"Much is made in the self-referential world of 'Urinetown: The Musical' of this show's strange name. But the cheeky little girl and the crooked cop narrator who have all kinds of Brechtian insights to offer throughout this post-modern musical never directly comment on what a strange show this Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman concoction really is. After all, Urinetown will make you laugh, make you think, and you'll probably find yourself humming some of this musical's catchy tunes. But this is also a production about people being forced to “pay to pee,” class warfare, revolutionary struggle that ultimately reminds us our way of living is unsustainable. This re-imagining of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production features a cast of 20 including many Chicago talents playing the 300-seat Mercury Theatre. This satirical tale of greed, corruption, love and family was penned by former Neo-Futurists."
Windy City Times

"By the time regular theatergoers read this, they may have seen glowing reviews in other papers for Urinetown, the Musical. They’re all true—this Urinetown is a smart, sassy and intimate version of the surprise Broadway hit that was written here in Chicago. This Urinetown is what the New York producers were too foolish to do when they brought the national tour of the show to town for two off-target and undersold weeks in downtown Chicago. If they’d had the imagination to stage the show Off-Loop—say, at The Vic or Royal George or Metro or Lakeshore—they’d still have a hit running here."

"Mullen and choreographer Brian Loeffler have adapted many of the design and dance ideas of the Broadway production and scaled them down, but not by much. Their cast of 16, backed by a cooking four-piece band ( Michael Sobie, musical director ) uses every inch of the Mercury stage. Without a conventional orchestra pit between stage and audience, the show really provides an exciting in-your-face experience that even dazzles at moments with its energy and panache."

"Mullen has assembled an altogether fine ensemble of Chicagoans and New Yorkers, headed by Michael Buchanan and Tamara Spiewak as Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell, the lead couple. Bright, eager and faux-naive, they both have voices that don’t quit (especially Buchanan, in the largest singing role) and have style to spare. Jon Frazier, as cynical Officer Lockstock, and Roni Geva, as waif-like Little Sally, are just about perfect as the self-aware narrators. Additional strong support comes from Michael Accardo as the villainous urine mogul Cladwell Caldwell, and Christine Sherrill as the soaring belt mezzo torn between forces of repression and liberation."

"Urine for a good time with this Urinetown, the Musical."
Newcity Chicago

"'Urinetown' is to musical theater what "Airplane!" is to disaster movies: a shameless and hysterical send-up of the form that depends as much on the straight-faced delivery of its performers as the material itself."

"Virtually every line and scenario in the show has obvious and subtle undertones from other shows--often simultaneously--and untangling and identifying them all will keep aficionados of the form blissfully occupied while the novices who hate musicals will still get plenty of belly laughs by ridiculing the aspects that annoy them the most. The combined equity and non-equity ensemble have obviously rehearsed the show inside and out for what all involved hope will be an extended open run."
Chicago Free Press

"Certainly there has never been a musical that promised as little and delivered as much as 'Urinetown.' This uniquely entertaining little masterpiece, which began in Chicago and went on to win 2002 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical, soars over the top of theatrical convention and into the stratosphere of true classics. Miss this and you’ll lose a chance to experience the indescribable delights that only inspired theater can offer."

"The brilliance of this work is hard to decipher. Suffice it to say that it mixes collective theatrical memory with audience desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. With gut-wrenching hilarity, it spoofs everything from crime-doesn’t-pay dramas to boy-meets-girl romances, from morality plays to big-budget musical blowouts. Under a profoundly prophetic guise, it refreshingly fails to offer any insight into anything."

"'Urinetown' unfolds in an unnamed city that has experienced a drought so severe that citizens must pay for the privilege to pee in public urinals, which are run by the corrupt and greedy Urine Good Company. The evil head of this cynical empire is Caldwell B. Cladwell (the cockily buffoon Michael Accardo), who hopes his lovely college-educated daughter will someday take his seat at the boardroom. But Hope Cladwell—beautifully sung by Tamara Spiewak, who has a field day creating the ingénue to end all ingénues—has more enlightened ideas. Together with the street-urchin hero Bobby Strong (powerhouse vocalist and champion mugger Michael Buchanan), she plots to reawaken the world with a golden shower of love."

"Almost without exception, the ensemble in this production is perfection—blessed with sturdy pipes and impeccable timing. Under Tom Mullen’s flawless direction, they keep the pacing slick and maximize the Mercury Theatre’s intimate setting. Special mention must go to Jon Frazier and Roni Geva, who as Officer Lockstock and Little Sally deftly shoulder narrative functions as well as character roles. But they are merely the most sparkly gems on this dazzling tiara of talent."
You can find out more details about the production at The Stage Channel, you can buy tickets for the show at Ticketmaster, and you can see previews of the show here. The cast also performed on the WGN9 Morning News, which you an see here.

I saw the show on Sunday, opening night, and it was absolutely, positively fabulous! Highly recommmended.

Comments (9)

  1. Stephen Toub says:

    I posted a couple of weeks ago with some reviews of the production of “Urinetown: The Musical” running…

  2. brian damson says:

    i am so thrilled for this show! i was in this show in saugatuck last summer( with tom directing and tamara and michael and nancy and norm and sobie) and i felt like patti lupone in les miz, perfect show,perfect cast,perfect experience. so i am not suprised that chicago is loving it! rock on you guys!!!

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