Urinetown: The Musical

Rebecca Varidel
13th Jan 2023

Urinetown brings the colloquial term 'taking the piss' to the stage. Beyond the laughs, life is a whole lot more complicated. What happens when there is no more water?

Tonight was the opening night of Urinetown at Hayes Theatre Sydney and I have to say the name of the musical was a bit of a turn off - so much so I nearly didn't go. Yet the show was an amazing experience with so many witty references to the history of musical theatre and to even deeper messages. 

Winner of three Tony Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards and two Obie Awards, Urinetown is a musical satire of the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, municipal politics and musical theatre itself.

In its performances Urinetown takes us on an adventure across different musical styles even jumping into gospel and protest songs, and visually slips across choreography from different decades. For those in the know you might recognise a couple of notes that nearly lead into famous show tunes, moments of plot that seem more than familiar for a blink of an eye, and dance steps you've seen before. This is one of the smartest (aka cleverest) shows you will ever see. And I think if you are familiar with musical theatre history you will enjoy it even more. Yet although Urinetown is erudite, it doesn't have to be. You don't have to be a musical theatre history academic or a climate action protester to thoroughly enjoy it. Go on see the show and have a laugh.

"Romeo meets Juliet. Maria meets Tony. Bobby meets Hope and chaos ensues. Welcome to Urinetown: The Musical."

Stars of the show: Petronella Van Tienen as Hope Cladwell portrays wide eyed innocence and an open heart like you've never seen. Cutesy gestures matched with doe-eyed naivety culminate in her outstanding theatrical performance. Singing. Dancing. Heart touching. After seeing this Hope, you couldn't imagine anything anyone else.  

"I did follow my heart, Hope. Thanks to you."

Joel Horwood carols us to rebellion as the Pied Piper led the children in song. Each glint of his eye, and move of his hand accentuates the satire. He has us both loving him and laughing at him simultaneously in this superlative rendition of Bobby Strong. 

Huge love for Joe Dinn in his dual roles (although we loved the moo moo best) showing extraordinary range both vocally and in characters. Joe you can be my Ma anytime! and for Natasha Vickery and her ragdoll as our conscious. Yeah we know she is all grown up, but she played a very good kid.

And although we wanted to boo him as the bad guy what's not to adore about the brilliance of Max Gambale in his role as Mr. Caldwell. He brought outstanding presence that exuded 'you know who I am and I am in control of the world' confidence right up until his ... (sorry no spoilers here).

Huge applause for Cameron Mitchell for the clever and entertaining choreography which fitted this piece like a glove, and grasped the changes of scene and mood, era and history. And to all the cast and crew of new Heart Strings Theatre Co. under the wings of director/founder Ylaria Rogers. Staging and lighting grabbed us without overexerting itself. Acting was exaggerated just enough, just enough that at times you could forget that it was. You could nearly forget the satire, until the next laugh, which in our row were frequent and many.