Review by Eva Schramm, SCPA’s Cappies Critic Team
With porta-potties, self-commenting narration, and forbidden love, ‘urine' for a good time with Walnut Hills High School's production of "Urinetown.”
Composer/lyricist Mark Hollmann and lyricist/librettist Greg Kotis' 2001 Tony Award-winning "Urinetown" is a smart, witty and irreverent spoof of musical theater and corporate greed. "Urinetown" centers around a terrible water shortage in a Gotham-esque city. A 20-year drought has made private toilets illegal, so all must pay to pee. The evil Caldwell B. Cladwell, CEO of Urine Good Company, has set a price for the use of public toilets. However, when he implements a fee hike, the good-natured Bobby Strong rallies his fellow citizens to take action. A comical revolt ensues, ultimately raising the stakes for Bobby and his particularly budding attraction to Cladwell's lovely daughter, Hope.
Walnut Hills High School produced a vocally strong production, exceptionally and energetically choreographed by student Matthew Eggers. The entire cast was animated and dedicated to their roles, leaving no chance of boredom. Their onstage presence, mixed with the comical script and the dynamic technical aspects, made their production beyond compare.
The immensely talented Oliver Vockell winningly portrays the kindhearted Bobby Strong as a valiant hero with an endearing heart. In the same vitality, Alex Kirk as Hope portrays attractive authenticity and dim-witted charm. Vockell and Kirk established an honest connection onstage and performed a memorable rendition of "Follow Your Heart," one of many terrific tunes in the score. As Cladwell B. Cladwell, Peter Godsey's characterization exuberantly reveals the role's evil intentions with personal flamboyance. Olivia Busche's vocal performance as Penelope Pennywise was beyond compare, as well as her adept acting ability. The marvelously expressive Molly Munn perfectly captures the innocence of the wiser-than-her-years Little Sally. Jack Giglia is remarkably sardonic as Officer Lockstock. With perfect comic timing, Giglia never failed to entice laughter.
The Walnut Hills High School Theater Department also shone when it came to the show's complex technical elements. Stage manager, Chloe Burwinkel's cues were timed to perfection as she never missed a beat. The sound crew, led by John Arora, created realistically funny effects that added to the comedy of the piece. The scenic design allowed for quick and efficient scene changes to differentiate from the poor streets and the fancy offices. Abby Schwartz's use of proper socio-economical costumes also conveyed the distinction between the classes. The use of random, funky props, created by John Paul Oberst and his crew throughout the show, added to the satirical aspects of the production while still being entirely functional and relevant.
Walnut Hills High School's production of "Urinetown" demonstrated undeniable talent, artisan technical aspects, perfect comic timing, and most importantly, reminded everyone that, "It's a Privilege to Pee."
Review by Josie Palmarini, SCPA’s Cappies Critic Team
Welcome to Urinetown! Well, not Urinetown the place, but rather Walnut Hills High School's production of "Urinetown" the musical, a performance during which you'll laugh so hard you'll pee in your pants but pay for it during intermission.
As Officer Lockstock (Jack Giglia) makes very clear near the beginning of our story, "Urinetown" is not a happy musical. It is set in a place filled to the brim with despair, hopelessness, and crushed dreams, where supposed evil corporations reign, political corruption runs rampant, and, due to a mysterious drought, you must pay a fee in order to be able to pee or defecate in the "amenity" otherwise known as a toilet. And don't even think of trying to pee anywhere you're not supposed to, because if you do, you'll be captured by the police and carted off to Urinetown (the place), never to return again.
The hero of our epic is none other than Public Amenity #9's assistant custodian and everyman, Bobby Strong portrayed by Oliver Vockell. Vockell gave a really solid performance as Bobby, providing the audience with all of the heart, over-the-top heroic antics, and humor they could've asked for, as well as displaying some highly impressive vocal talents during several songs, such as "Look at the Sky" and "Run, Freedom, Run " Our young, plucky, upbeat ingenue-turned-rebellion-leader, Hope Cladwell, was portrayed by Alex Kirk. Kirk had spot-on line delivery and was hilarious until the very end. She, like Vockell, also exhibited some notable vocal talent in songs such as, "Follow Your Heart" and "I See a River." The onstage chemistry between the two actors, Vockell and Kirk, also felt deep-seated and dynamic.
Every good story has a narrator, and in the case of "Urinetown," we've got Officer Lockstock portrayed by Jack Giglia. Giglia had flawless comedic timing, and each of his aside discussions about the happenings of the show with Little Sally (Molly Munn) were extremely humorous and noticeably well- delivered. As well as being the shows all-knowing chronicler, Giglia also wrote and performed an original "Urinetown-inspired" song during intermission, entitled "I'm Just Happy to Pee Here," during which he sang and played the piano and Sam Frank (Officer Barrel) played the guitar. This original song was a nice addition to Walnut Hill's production and helped keep up the "don't-take-this-to-seriously" energy of the show as a whole. Officer Lockstock's sidekick was Little Sally, portrayed by Molly Munn, who, at the same time as posing important logical questions about "hydraulics" was lively and adorable. Munn also felt incredibly sincere and somber when singing the song, "Tell Her I Love Her" that pulled at heart-strings and made eyes well up with tears.
"Urinetown" is a musical centered around economic and societal classes and pee pee and poo poo. The several environments in which the show takes place must feel either incredibly filthy and destitute or opulent and posh. The scenic designer, Gabrielle Chiong; costume designer, Abby Schwartz; hair and makeup designer, Reeya Dighe; and lighting designer, Iris LeCates, all did phenomenal jobs at shaping said environments. The costumes, the hair, and the makeup of the Poor Ensemble truly made them look desperate, hopeless, and grimy. The set, with its built-in slide and graffitied walls, really felt like the "other" side of town and helped make you sympathize with the living conditions of the Poor Ensemble. The lighting, especially of the deceased characters, really helped bring the mood from happy to eery in an instant.
Walnut Hills' production of "Urinetown" provided us with all of the satirical whimsy, thought-provoking conceptualization, and potty humor a theatre-goer could ask for.
Review by Maddy Kennebeck, Seven Hills School Cappies Critic Team
Welcome to Walnut Hills High School's production of "Urinetown," where the premise is absurd, and the production is absurdly good. "Urinetown" is a musical satire that premiered in 2001, known for its unusual title, endless humor, and poignant social commentary on political and corporate attitudes towards ecological crises. From its endless energy to its crisp choreography, the Walnut show wows and delights with its execution of the raunchy source material, thanks to the efforts of its multi-talented cast and crew.
"Urinetown" twists and parodies the typical Broadway musical formula of a leading man standing up for the underprivileged. The story follows Bobby Strong, a young everyman who lives in a world where a terrible drought has made water scarce and to curb water consumption, the government limits urination. The citizens pay fees to use public-bathrooms and follow strict urination laws under fear of being shipped off to the mythical "Urinetown." Strong empowers the people to revolt against the tyranny of Caldwell B. Cladwell, the owner of the Urine Good Company that runs the public bathrooms, reclaiming the freedom to pee, "wherever you like, whenever you like, for as long as you like, and with whomever you like."
An immediate standout in this production are the technical elements, whose level of detail and clean execution give the show a crisp, professional quality. The marketing and publicity team, comprised of Piper Johnson, Grace Allen, and Crew, embrace the satirical style and potty humor of the show in their advertising, parodying an image of Hamilton for their playbill and taking advantage of the show's performance on Valentine's Day for some truly inspired pee-pun valentines. The set is bursting with rustic detail, and the Walnut Hills build crew successfully designed and executed a multi-storied set that is a dynamic and entertaining playground for the performers. The show also wows with its dance numbers, with a special shout-out given to Matthew Eggers and Molly Munn who choreographed a number of the songs such as "Cop Song" and "Don't Be the Bunny" that are both hysterical and impressive.
The cast gives a number of strong performances, with great comedic timing and camaraderie that keep the musical cohesive and energetic through its runtime. Standouts include Jack Giglia and Peter Godsey, who play Officer Lockstock and Caldwell B. Cladwell, who both bring so much charm and talent to their villainous roles that it's almost impossible to root against them. The protagonists hold up their own too, with Oliver Vochshell, who plays Bobby Strong, and Alex Kirk, who plays Hope Cladwell, injecting life and killer vocals into their roles to make them a treat to watch whenever they're on stage. The other actors and ensemble perform fantastically, overshadowing the few sound issues and muted deliveries with their collective effort and dedication to the coordinated chaos of the parody.
Walnut Hills's production of "Urinetown" relishes in its unabashed wackiness and wit, doing the source material justice with the efforts of its dedicated cast and crew to serve up a one of a kind production. To paraphrase Jack Giglia's delightful original song, everyone in the audience at Walnut Hill's Urinetown is certainly just happy to pee here'.
Excerpts from Top Reviews
“Sam Frank's police partner Officer Lockstock, performed by Jack Giglia, also contributed wonderfully to the overall show. He even created his very own intermission song that was just as hysterical as his performance interaction with both props and orchestra.”
-Brooke Yates, Larry A. Ryle High School
“The production, as a whole, brought forward a breathtaking amount of enthusiasm and cohesion, especially during extensive dance routines such as "Run, Freedom, Run!" and "Urinetown," where movements were fluid and crisp. The comedic timing and vocal capability of each actor were enthralling and remarkably well-rehearsed.”
-Charlotte Shores, Randall K. Cooper High School
“One particular girl who stunned with the power of her voice was none other than Penelope Pennywise, portrayed by the talented Olivia Busche. Her vocals in "A Privilege to Pee" were something to remember, and her energy was great!”
-Sydney Willis, Larry A. Ryle High School
“The set was brilliant, creating the dingy and grungy town through a double-level metal scaffolding-like structure with the dirty Public Amenity #9 centerstage. The set of Urine Good Company flew in through quick transitions to build a more majestic, wealthy, and powerful place. The set crew (Gabriell Chiong, Heather Cochran, Clayton Bickel,and crew) made excellent use of the given space and was smart in distinguishing the UGC scenes from the Public Amenity #9 setting.”
-Lexie Kemble, Mercy McAuley High School
“The cast of "Urinetown" stunned with comedic numbers like "It's a Privilege to Pee", mixed in with heartfelt, rebellious numbers like "Run, Freedom, Run!" Walnut Hills High School demonstrates what it meant to have a truly driven, energetic, and motivated ensemble with their ensemble of the poor driving large dance numbers and complex songs.”
-Samantha Flerlage, Mariemont High School
“The lighting crew, led by Iris LeCates, was extremely proficient, illuminating every inch of the curved proscenium. Select colors also created uniformity: green light indicated memory sequences, while a reddish-orange hue accompanied tense situations. Abby Schwartz, lead of costumes, exhibited vast attention to detail: strong lines added a cartoonish feel, and main characters were exempted from the principle color palette. Finally, the sound was rich and resounding, just like the show's societal commentary.”
-Lucy Lawler, Saint Ursula Academy
“Little Sally's sweet innocence and well-informed realism were played equally well by Molly Munn. Peter Godsey's Caldwell B. Cladwell incited many bouts of laughter during his short moments of levity. Jack Giglia's Officer Lockstock gave the audience insightful anecdotes and vital information in a playful way, even continuing through a short intermission song with Sam Frank's Officer Barrel.”
-Julia Van Schaik, Ursuline Academy
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.