Posts Tagged ‘greg kotis’

Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman, Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis
Directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan
Choreographed by Chris Kerman
June 4, 2022

Cast of Urinetown
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre

“What is Urinetown?” That’s a question that gets asked often in New Line Theatre’s latest production. In terms of the plot, that’s for the audience to find out, but in terms of the show itself, Urinetown is a 2001 musical that gained a lot of accolades when it first played on Broadway. It’s notable for being one of the first “meta-musicals” in the fullest sense of the term. It’s a clever sendup of many of the conventions of musical theatre, as well as some specific shows. It’s a dark comedy and a sharp satire, and at New Line, it’s a memorable experience with an especially strong cast, insightful direction, and a striking aesthetic.

The story, narrated by Officer Lockstock (Kent Coffel) of the police, and the curious, precocious Little Sally (Jennelle Gilreath), tells of a nameless town in the not-so-distant future in which there has been a drought and a major water shortage, and in which a corporation, Urine Good Company, has taken over managing public toilets, which the townspeople are required to use. The part of town where most of the story takes place is home to only one of these public “amenities”, as they are called. The amenity is managed by the imperious Penelope Pennywise (Sarah Gene Dowling), and assisted by the young, increasingly dissatisfied Bobby Strong (Kevin Corpuz), who becomes convinced that the way things are is unfair, as anyone who is caught breaking the rules–including his own father Joseph (Zachary Allen Farmer) is arrested and carted off to the mysterious “Urinetown” as a punishment. Meanwhile, Urine Good Company’s big boss, Caldwell B. Cladwell (Todd Schaefer) is using his considerable influence to bribe Senator Fipp (Colin Dowd) to influence the government to pass new laws that raise the fees for the amenities, much to the public’s distress. When Cladwell’s fresh-faced college graduate daughter, Hope (Melissa Felps), gets lost on her way to work and meets Bobby, that starts a chain of events that leads to much uproar, rebellion, and the revelation of long-held secrets. Ultimately, the story is a highly cynical one, as Officer Lockstock reminds Little Sally that “this isn’t a happy musical”. It’s stylized, occasionally over-the-top, and cleverly sends up many of the tropes audiences have come to expect in the musical theatre canon. There are also some obvious sendups of well-known shows such as Les Miserables and West Side Story, among others. 

The staging is, as is usual for New Line, full of energy and strong singing, featuring a remarkable cast led by the charismatic Corpuz as the earnest, determined Bobby, and the equally excellent Felps as the well-meaning but initially sheltered Hope. There are also strong turns from Schaefer as the greedy, self-important Cladwell, Dowling as increasingly mysterious Pennywise, Marshall Jennings as Lockstock’s loyal counterpart, Officer Barrel, and Dowd as the corrupted, conflicted Senator Fipp.  Coffel and Gilreath hold the stage with excellent presence and timing as the authoritarian Lockstock and the inquisitive, occasionally snarky Little Sally. It’s a strong ensemble all around, with loads of cynical energy and strong vocals. There’s also excellent stylized choreography by Chris Kernan.

This is a demanding show in terms of style, pacing, and overall theming, and all that is done remarkably well at New Line, under the direction of Scott Miller and Kernan. There’s also a strikingly evocative set by Schaefer, meticulously detailed costumes by Sarah Porter, and excellent lighting by Kenneth Zinkl that helps capture the overall dystopian tone of the piece. The excellent New Line Band, led by music director Tim Clark, provides ideal accompaniment, as well.

This is one of those shows that is probably not going to appeal to everyone. It’s remarkably sharp and clever, but it also can be deeply cynical and bleak, so if you are looking for a truly “happy musical”, this isn’t it. It’s witty, incisive, and hilarious at times, though, and a special treat for musical theatre buffs, in that it’s such a precise parody that features many familiar tropes and references, and has a memorable, highly referential score. At New Line, Urinetown challenges, provokes, and ultimately entertains with a superb cast of of local actors and singers. It may not be a happy musical, but it’s certainly a memorable one. 

Kent Coffel, Kevin Corpuz, Marshall Jennings
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre

New Line Theatre is presenting Urinetown at the Marcelle Theatre until June 25th, 2022

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Yeast Nation
Lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis
Music by Mark Hollmann, Book by Greg Kotis
Orchestrations by John Gerdes
Directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor
New Line Theatre
June 2, 2018

Cast of Yeast Nation
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre

New Line Theatre is closing out its latest season with a quirky show that’s right up their alley in terms of style and approach, although at its heart it’s both new and old at the same time. Yeast Nation is a fun, funny show with a theme that’s novel and a message that’s more timeless. At New Line, it’s given a production that emphasizes the comedy, musicality, and most of all, the heart of the story.

This show, set up as something of a Greek tragedy with a chorus and archetypal characters and situations, has kind of a goofy-sounding premise, and the directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor have embraced the overall silliness of the theme by going all-out in terms of visuals, vocals, and performance. Basically, it’s about yeasts–more specifically, a colony of yeasts that live on the earth billions of years ago. Still, although these characters are yeasts, the situations presented here are very human. The power struggles between young and old, progress and conformity, individual goals vs. those of the group, are all familiar, told in a framework that gives the story an air of mythology. Most of the yeasts here are named Jan, with adjectives highlighting their personality or position in the group. Jan-the-Unnamed (Sarah Gene Dowling) essentially narrates the story, leading a chorus of yeasts throughout the production, telling a tale of change, resistance to change, and, of course, love, as the colony’s longtime leader, Jan-the-Elder (Zachary Allen Farmer), advised by his counselor Jan-the-Wise (Micheal Lowe)  strives to keep order and “stasis” in the community, as resources are scarce and strict rules are maintained in order to preserve the colony’s supply of the salts that they need to eat to survive. When one yeast breaks the rules and is bascially executed (“popped”), his daughter Jan-the-Sweet (Larissa White) is left to grieve and question the strictness and purpose of the rules. Also challenging the status quo is the Elder’s first son, Jan-the-Second-Oldest (Dominic Dowdy-Windsor), who is also sweet on Sweet and wants to help her, as well as the rest of the colony, by breaking the rules and “rising” to the top of the ocean in search of other sources of food. Meanwhile, Second’s sister Jan-the-Sly (Grace Langford) thirsts for power and teams up with Wise (who is also enamored with Sweet) in order to enforce the old rules of stasis and gain control of the colony in place of her ailing father. There’s a lot of intrigue, plotting, and aspiring, and its all presented in a heightened style that ultimately feeds the overall broad comic tone of the show, communicating a message that isn’t really new, even though it’s told in a clever, compelling way.

The musical elements, as is usual for New Line, are top-notch. There’s a great band led by music director Sarah Nelson, playing the show’s generally upbeat score with style. The singing is great, with everyone in excellent voice and Dowling and the chorus having some standout moments, especially on the show’s catchiest number “Love Equals Pain” in Act 2. White and Dowdy-Windsor also have some strong vocal moments, and they display a believable, sweet chemistry in their scenes together, and Farmer as usual has a strong presence and impressive vocals. Langford and Lowe bring a lot of gleeful energy to their villainous roles, and there are also memorable performances from Jennelle Gilreath as the conflicted, determined Jan-the-Famished, Colin Dowd as Jan-the-Youngest, and Lex Ronan as an enigmatic (and initially cute) new addition known as the New One. The whole ensemble works together well, bringing a great deal of energy to this seriously funny saga.

Visually, Yeast Nation makes a strong impression as well, with a set and lighting by Rob Lippert, costumes by Sarah Porter, and an overall style that’s reminiscent of an undersea-set Saturday morning cartoon. In fact, the overall theming and sense of style here, from the direction to the technical elements to the sheer energy of the cast, is a key element of this production’s success. This is a show that I hadn’t seen or heard before–which is another strength of New Line in that they give exposure to some more obscure musicals, and that’s a very good thing. Overall, I think this production is a lot of fun, and another example of the strength and ingenuity of New Line Theatre.

Larissa White, Dominic Dowdy-Windsor
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
New Line Theatre

New Line Theatre is presenting Yeast Nation at the Marcelle Theatre until June 23, 2018.

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