Urinetown

Date 11th November 2023
Society Springers Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Chelmsford Theatre Studio
Type of Production Musical
Director Rebecca Webber
Musical Director Phil Toms
Choreographer Lula Hemmings
Written By Greg Kotis & Mark Hollmann

Report

Author: Christine Davidson

Springers are well known for choosing musicals out of the box that have not been widely presented by other societies. Urinetown was no exception. I was really not sure what to expect from this strangely named show but it turned out to be a really funny, totally bonkers production which left us thinking deeply about the issues raised.

The space at The Studio (fondly still known as The Cramphorn Theatre) is very limited so for the creative backstage team to design such a fantastically clever set, was a real achievement for the society. The set was on two levels, with projected images on the upper level and a five piece orchestra led by Phil Toms. Below was a revolving flat with two different set scenes plus the addition of a sewer pipe entrance. These scene changes were outstandingly built by Anver Anderson and his team. Lighting and follow spot were used to good effect. 

The production was excellently directed by Rebecca Webber, with help from Jackie Bates and fantastic choreography by Lula Hemmings. This seamless production flowed well with no blackouts, as a director I am in favour of this if at all possible.

The very talented cast were all superb and it would take too long to name you all but be assured the smiles and enjoyment on your faces was enough for us to know you were all loving being in this show. All of you kept the pace and the energy levels high; well done to you all.

We meet Colin Shoard as Officer Lockstock, who narrates throughout the show. A corrupt cop, he is one of the villains of the piece but such is his comedic stage presence, as he breaks through the fourth wall to talk to us, we actually start to like him. With him is his sidekick Officer Barrel (Julian Harbrow), who exhibits toughness but also has a softer side. Both worked extremely well as a team.

The heroes are Bobby Strong (Joe Baker) and his love interest Hope Cladwell (Ellie West). Joe as Bobby was superb with an incredible singing range, a very comedic delivery and timing, a stand out performance.  Ellie as Hope, the young heroine, sang beautifully and her delivery of a young naïve girl who believed in love was excellent. What a great pairing this turned out to be. The Chapel scene with the gospel song ‘Run Freedom Run’ was superbly sung with the acapella piece well conducted by Bobby, giving us a fantastic delivery from the whole cast.

Simon Brett, as another villain, Caldwell B Cladwell, gave a strong confident performance as the man with a plan. With his sidekicks Ms McQueen (Sam Randall) and Senator Fipp (Daniel Screen) as the management, they all worked well together making us want to boo and hiss as they tried to make the people pay to pee.

Emily Peplow as Little Becky Two Shoes, caught my eye with her energy and a huge prosthetic pregnancy bump. She danced and sang with conviction, I loved the song ‘Snuff that girl’ which she sang really well. Kate Diaz, as Little Sally also gave a wonderful performance with incredible facial expressions and acting ability. Two very talented young ladies who I hope to see on stage again very soon.

Old Man Strong (James Wilkins) with his incredible long pee in the first half, made me smile as he later wafted around the stage in angel wings. He also played Hot Blades Harry.

Deborah Anderson as Penelope Pennywise was superb in the role. Her delivery and stage presence was really strong while her singing was clear, we heard every word she sang, an excellent performance.

My only problem was at the start there was sometimes a lack of clarity of diction; this made it difficult to understand what was happening. The audience suffered some frustration because the theatre front of house staff would insist in letting latecomers into the auditorium, up to 15 minutes after the start! This really did not help the actors on the stage or the audience! Occasionally, at the start, the music did tend to drown out the actors but this improved as the production progressed. Nonetheless this was a really funny, fantastic production.

I just want to thank you all for all the fantastic shows you have produced over the years and the lovely flowers, chocolates and card you gave me on my last visit, as your NODA District 8 Rep. I’m so glad I leave having watched such a gem of a show.  Congratulations to you all.