Theater review: “Urinetown” at HART

Photo courtesy of HART

Water shutoffs in Detroit, the recent takeover attempt of Asheville’s water system by the State of North Carolina: Haywood Arts Regional Theatre’s staging of the oddball musical smash Urinetown is timely. The show is all about people living under a public utilities nightmare scenario where water is restricted to levels of personal discomfort and hygiene. The playbill declares the setting (and thus sets the tone): A Gotham-like city sometime after “The Stink Years.”

The show also makes good-spirited fun of many familiar musical theater tropes. Act one ends with a full-on parody number that mirrors one of the show-stoppers from the exceedingly serious Les Miserables. Song titles like “Urine Good Company,” “Too Much Exposition,” and “It’s a Privilege To Pee ” are a tip off to the tongue-in-cheek approach.

HART has long been a cut above what one would expect from community theater due to its often daring choices in shows that attract top-notch local and regional talent. Strother Stingley is a comedy anchor in any show he is in. His ability to delight audiences is on display here as Officer Lockstock, through whose eyes the audience take this journey. The high jinks kick off before the curtain even rises as he and his cohort, Officer Barrel (played by George Heard), interrupt HART executive director Steve Lloyd’s curtain speech.

The show is more than a little silly at times, but delightfully so thanks to standout performances by Zoe Manolas as Hope, Justin Slack as Bobby and opera-trained vocalist Kristen Hedberg (whose well-trained pipes are almost overpowering to the rest of the company when on full display). All in all, the whole cast rises to the challenge, and embraces the often goofy contrivances of the script under the steady direction of Charles Mills and Chuck Taft. More importantly, the actors are clearly having fun — and so is the audience.

Urinetown is onstage at HART in Waynesville, with performances Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 3, 4, 10 and 11, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays, Oct. 5 and 13, at 3 p.m.. $12-$24.

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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