Thursday, 9 October 2014

Review: Urinetown at the Apollo Theatre

Apollo Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 8th October 2014

Jonathan Slinger
For the past few months I've been telling everyone who missed Urinetown during its sell-out run at the St James Theatre to make sure they catch the musical in its new West End home. Of course the reply I always receive is, "What on earth is that about?" 

To put it simply, instead of retelling a love story or following a journey to self-discovery as many musicals do, Urinetown looks into how the world would cope if we lost the privilege to pee. Those who break the rules are sent to Urinetown but, of course, there is a rebellion.

It's important to point out that Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis' show is a satirical musical comedy. The tone is perfect with the Narrator, Officer Lockstock (Jonathan Slinger) and Little Sally (Karis Jack) making fun of musicals in general as well as Urinetown's dark story and peculiar title. The piece is written cleverly and it's so refreshing to see it in the West End. The satirical humour makes Urinetown totally unique and I am confident it could build up a hugely dedicated audience.

When a show is a hit in a smaller off-West End venue and then transfers, there is always a chance that some of its magic could be lost; however, with Urinetown the opposite has happened and it is even better than before (I'm not quite sure how that is even possible). Only minor things have been changed, but the show is certainly in better shape. After years of writing about why shows need to be trialled, tweaked and tested instead of opening in the West End straight away, Urinetown has come along and demonstrated why a show should build up its audience before attempting to take the West End by storm. 

Rosanna Hyland and Matthew Seadon Young 

Jamie Lloyd's exquisite production remains impressively focused. The stage is often busy but I never felt overwhelmed. I see show after show night after night and rarely leave the theatre so excited. Instead of feeling downhearted about my commute home, after the performance had ended I was buzzing and already planning when I might be free to see Urinetown again. 

The more of Lloyd's productions I see the more baffled I find myself. I do not understand how a director can work on a huge variety of productions - from screen to stage musical adaptations, as well as Shakespeare classics and weird and wacky original musicals - with such consistency. Without reading a press release or glancing at a programme I would be able to see a show and say "That was directed by Jamie Lloyd" which is what makes Lloyd stand apart from the rest; I don't think I could say the same for any other director working in the industry.

Matthew Seadon Young
Urinetown’s score just gets better and better. The cast perform stand out song after stand out song. Ann Yee's choreography is nothing short of outstanding; each number is performed to perfection. Soutra Gilmour's design is dark, almost gothic, and suitably gory. 

The cast of Urinetown are out of this word. Matthew Seadon Young has taken over as Bobby Strong, the role he previously understudied during the St James Theatre run. As cliché as it sounds, a star has well and truly been born. Seadon Young has made the part his own, his interpretation is a little geekier which works a treat. All the details he adds - the head flicks, stares and pauses - work perfectly. There's nothing better than watching someone who simply understands the style of the comedy and has fun with it.

Seadon Young performs as if he’s been leading West End companies for years and I found his vocals are hugely impressive. He paces himself well and, alongside the terrific ensemble who burst with charm and character, provides the highlight of the evening with the show stopping number 'Run Freedom Run'. The cast brought the house down and certainly deserved the never-ending applause. 

The other star of the show is Jenna Russell whose portrayal of Penelope Pennywise is even funnier than before. Russell, who should have awards coming out her ears, is an absolute dream to watch on stage; there seems to be absolutely nothing she cannot do. Rosanna Hyland also shines as Hope Cladwell. At first the character hides in the shadows, but in act two Hyland takes her performance up a gear and demands all the attention - she is sensational.

Matthew Seadon-Young, Jenna Russell and Cory English

I strongly urge you to take a chance and book a ticket to see Urinetown. If you're open-minded and like a bit of satirical comedy take a risk, be courageous and go and see Urinetown for yourself. It would be impossible for anyone to see the show without having a strong opinion which is fantastic. It's about time we were treated to something bold and different in the West End; I will certainly be back at the Apollo Theatre soon. 

Urinetown is the best musical to open in the West End this year. It is a new kind of theatrical bliss and you would be mad to miss it. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Urinetown is currently booking at the Apollo Theatre until Saturday 24th January 2015.
Please visit  for further information and tickets. 

Photo Credit:  Johan Persson

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