Urinetown at Phoenix Festival Theatre

TheatreBloom rating:

It was a cold and rainy night. Ironic, since I was on my way to see a play about a drought. I was driving to Harford County. A place that has been in the news recently because one of its politicians apologized for making a racial remark that she didn’t recall making. Fitting since this show also features nasty politicians. Finally, I arrived at Harford Community College and Urinetown. Wow! What an unexpected surprise! (Is there any other kind?)

Director John Desmone has put together a piece that is a solid night’s entertainment. It is well cast and moves along smartly. Not only has Desmone constructed a fine production, but he also assembled a strong team that he leans on heavily. Bob Denton designed a multilevel set that is not only functional but perfect for this show. From poor to politician, Costumer Stefany Thomas has the cast decked out in threads accustom to their role. Toss in strong solos and blending harmonies taught by Musical Director Niki Tart, and you have a production to make any community theatre proud. The icing on this cake, the cherry on this sundae, is without a doubt the chorography of Bambi Johnson. Johnson keeps the cast moving in up-tempo numbers and keeps them synchronized throughout the evening like a fine-tuned Swiss watch.

Officers Lockstock (Tom Hartzell) and Barrel (Charles Johnson) keep peace and order. Hartzell is demanding and hardnose which makes his comedy all the funnier. His voice is full and resonant as he takes the spotlight in “Cop Song.” Johnson is the perfect partner to Hartzell. He is the Gannon to Hartzell’s Friday. Johnson has shining moments, especially when he talks about his relationship with Hartzell.

The one person capable of melting any hardened heart is Little Sally (Corrine Brock). Equipped with her teddy bear, Brock is simply adorable. I love when she tucks away the bear and dances with the rest of the cast. Her ability to keep her stage voice throughout “Tell Her I love Her” is to be commended. An overall outstanding performance.

Bobby Strong (Matthew Peterson) and Hope Cladwell (Sherry Benedek) are our over the top protagonists. Peterson is as cheesy as Chester Cheetah. He fully understands satire and plays his part to the max. He has a clear, strong voice and his duet “Follow Your Heart” is amazing. Benedek is a joy to watch perform. Her ability to play silly while being sincere is a gift. Like Peterson, she is the straight man to the comical world around her. Neither Peterson or Benedek over play the part and that makes it work well.

Ms. Pennywise (Lisa Pastella) is the no nonsense warden of the dirtiest urinal in town. Pastella plays most of the show as tough and heartless, but she has a secret and once that bomb has dropped you see the softer side of her. Pastella’s acting shows both sides of her character and her voice is reason enough to see the show.  She has amazing range and an incredible belt.

Caldwell B. Cladwell (Greg Guyton) is the man we love to hate. He is the sleaziest of corporate presidents who puts money above all else. If Cladwell had been on the Titanic, I’m sure that he would have stood on his daughter’s head to keep from drowning. Guyton fills this role as if he had been closing orphanages and kicking puppies all his life. Guyton flashes you back to the days of Snidely Whiplash, Dick Dastardly, Gargamel, and Mojo Jojo. I kept waiting for him to make a deal with Barnaby Barnicle to foreclose on the Old Lady that lived in a shoe. In addition to his ability to play sinister, he has a pretty good set of pipes as well. Check out Guyton as he sings “Don’t Be the Bunny”.

Excellent show with a tremendous supporting cast and ensemble. If you are looking to just be silly and have a good time, then HCC is the place to be for Urinetown. Just remember to bring your pennies.

Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission

Urinetown is a Phoenix Festival Theatre production, playing through March 10, 2019 at the Chesapeake Theatre on the Harford Community College Campus— 401 Thomas Run Road, in Bel Air, MD. For tickets call the box office at (443) 412-2217 or purchase them online.

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