Nerves and excitement hung in the air as the audience trickled in to St. Mary’s Theatre on Friday, October 25th. This evening, the opening performance of Urinetown: The Musical, marked the official start of the Villanova Student Musical Theatre 2019-2020 season, which has been met with much anticipation.
The evening’s entertainment, however, began prior to the show’s official start. The intricately designed set was in clear view, full of knick knacks and shrewd pee puns, for the audience to peruse before the opening act. Eyes were especially drawn to the toilet on stage left which ominously glowed in the darkness of the dimly lit stage. Nevertheless, the real fun began as the house lights dimmed and the stage illuminated. Narrator Officer Lockstock, played by James Sullivan, kindly welcomed the audience to Urinetown, a show he promised would be “filled with symbolism and things like that.” Next, Little Sally, portrayed by Carrie Sweeney, joined Lockstock and the two revealed how one of the objectives of the show would be to define a “good” musical. This was explored throughout the remainder of the performance as the script had many homages to famous musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story and Chicago.
Song after song, dance after dance, the actors and actresses continuously amazed the theatre patrons. Sweeney’s comedic timing and character voice made her a delight to watch. Austin Taylor had the house in stitches during his multiple “final exits” during Scene 1. In her first solo songs of the musical, Emma Ubriaco wowed the audience, as Penelope Pennywise, with her astonishing high belt in the song “It’s A Privilege to Pee.” Another comedic crowd favorite was Daniel Gorman playing Mr. McQueen whose overzealous spirit provides the Urine Good Company (UGC) with much needed jollification after the menacing Cladwell B. Caldwell, played by VSMT’s President Brian Jacko, commanded the stage during the song “Mr. Cladwell.”
Furthermore, the ensemble was unstoppable, performing consecutive spirited dances with multiple quick changes between each one. The choreography never failed to impress with its classic kicklines, numerous jazz hands, and powerful box step marches. Brian Jacko’s Caldwell B. Cladwell best described the cast’s dancing capalities saying, “I know we rehearsed this, but it never fails to amaze me.” Additionally, the choreography included more contemporary movements such as a flashlight dance during “The Cop Song.” This choreo reflected that of the song “Wait for Me” from the 2019 Tony Award winning musical, Hadestown.
Other standout moments of the night include Cristain Rodriguez’s portrayal of Bobby Strong which had the audience swooning; especially when in duet with Hope Cladwell played by Amanda Atkinson. Atkinson’s portrayal of Hope was that of a Disney Princess, highlighting the characters innocence and oblivion. The two lovebirds sang “Follow Your Heart” in which Atkinson’s vibrato and Rodriguez’s tenor voice were in perfect harmony causing the audience root for this post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet. The most memorable song of the evening, however, was “Run, Freedom, Run!” performed by Bobby Strong and The Poor (ensemble). The camaraderie and strength demonstrated in this song reflected that of the cast and production team of VSMT and had the entire audience vigorously applauding and cheering.
VSMT’s season continues with its Musical Review showcase and Winter musical, Singin’ in the Rain. Additionally, the spring musical may be headed to the new Performing Arts Center, set to open early 2020.
Urinetown: The Musical is not a show to be missed. It runs through November 2, 2019 and tickets are available online for purchase.