What a great production of a truly great musical! The Ghent Playhouse stage is truly awash with talent as this energetic cast – which skillfully and seamlessly blends a bunch of eager and talented youngsters with the usual middle-aged crowd that keep the Playhouse going – under Sky Vogel’s expert direction prove what a genuine classic Urinetown has become in a mere ten years.
I first saw and reviewed the show at The Theater Barn in 2006. At that time it was clear to me that the show was all about oil and our unsustainable dependence on fossil fuel. This time I got a completely different message and the show seems even more timely and relevant than it had previously. The ability of material to stand the test of time and continue to speak to and move audiences is the hallmark of great theatre.
Actually, Urinetown was written at a fascinating juncture in American culture. First devised in 1999, it was all set to open on Broadway on September 13, 2001. Talk about BAD timing!! That the official opening night occurred only a week later with only one line of dialogue changed to suit the new American reality was astonishing. So it’s a pre-9/11 show that only entered the larger cultural consciousness post-9/11. (Urinetown did have a successful off-Broadway run pre-9/11, but a show is not considered “set” until its official Broadway opening, after which union rules actually prevent the creative team from making any changes.) The audience for whom it was written had ceased to exist by opening night and whatever messages Mark Hollmann (music and lyrics) and Greg Kotis (lyrics and book) had intended to convey were immediately morphed by the changing world into which the show was launched.