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Urinetown as presented by Athlone Musical Society

Urinetown as performed by Athlone Musical Society:

Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 7th March 2024.

I loved the little touches that made the entrance to this show that little bit unusual. The windows of the Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone, were dressed as doors to Toilets, for men and women, and a very ‘woke’ entrance for a unisex cubicle. A toilet bowl in the foyer, Pee for Free signs on the toilet doors, and staff members sporting toilet brushes as fashion items, all set the scene most effectively and left the incoming audience in no doubt whatsoever that they were in for a night of lavatorial entertainment.

The opening set for the show was well designed and painted, with good depth, colour, and detail. There was good use of the upper level, allowing the rich and the poor to appear together but apart. The Urine Good Company headquarters was also scenically pleasing, and while the changes from Public Amenities to Offices took a little time to manoeuvre, Stage Manager, Jonathan O’Brien had his crew well-drilled to ensure that the delays were kept to a minimum.

The costuming of the show worked very much in tandem with the sets, having the poor street people looking uniformly untidy and bedraggled, but with good individuality, while the rich folk at the UGC offices were attired in clean and tidy outfits, although, given the outrageous nature of the show, I did feel that perhaps the elite could have been more flamboyant in their

fashion sense. Senator Fop’s lounge jacket and stuffed cat were a nice, Bond-villain-esque touch. The cops looked as if they’d arrived straight from a Police Academy set. Make-up and hairstyles, for the poor, were suitably grimy and haphazard. Props throughout were very good.

From the abundance of energy in this production, I suspect that Director Alfie Kilduff really enjoyed putting it all together. With the benefit of a very good cast, he brought out great individuality in his characters, and in his direction, it was easy to spot his cross references, or homages, to West Side Story, Les Misérables and The Wizard of Oz. There were clever touches too, like Mr. Cladwell always entering from the luxury of a private toilet, accompanied by the ‘flush’ from off-stage, comically emphasizing his privilege in contrast to the poor. There was a golden comedic moment between Penelope Pennywise and Caldwell when she entered his office, and they brilliantly mimed their former lust for each other. Such detail is what made this such an enjoyable romp. Only occasionally the lighting plot needed a bit of minor tweaking and a small injection of pace on one or two scene changes, but overall, Alfie did a wonderful job of putting this show on the stage. The lighting was generally good, with pools of open light that the principals generally found without much trouble. Once or twice the light level in the street scenes could have been raised a tad without losing the dinginess of the scenes. Perhaps more could have been done with Bobby’s death, but the strobe effect was not bad at all. I have nothing negative at all to say about the very good sound system. Cueing, balance, and effects were all splendid.

In the narrator role of Officer Lockstock, Jonathan Kilduff gave a strong and comedic performance, providing the necessary background information to the audience and creating a character who was comically vicious, yet delightfully likeable. His delivery of both lines and lyrics was clear and articulate, and he was extremely vocally secure.

Alongside him for much of the narration, and questioning his every theory, was a hilariously funny and childishly dorky, Little Sally, quite brilliantly portrayed by Aoife Digan. This really was a great character performance from a very versatile actress; sulky, off-hand, intelligent beyond her supposed age and robust in the delivery of her songs.

In the central role of Toilet Attendant, Bobby Strong, Shane Kelly belted out the biggest numbers of the show with top quality vocals and a complete sense of enjoyment. His romantic encounters with Hope Cladwell were tremendously funny, and his timing and execution of all his dialogue was top-notch. This was a great and commanding performance, and vocally outstanding.

Alongside him, in romance, was an adorable Hope Cladwell, played by Caoimhe Croasdell with a wonderful mix of accidental intelligence and unerring optimism. This was a delightful characterization and gave plenty of opportunities to display a strong and secure vocal quality.

And talking of vocal quality, Petrova Mulvey showed her class as Penelope Pennywise, laying down the ground rules of the privilege to pee, and demonstrating the breadth of her vocal range. Her character was almost dominatrix in nature but displaying her kinder nature as the show progressed. She also enjoyed some beautiful moments of comedy, particularly with Caldwell B. Cladwell, played with devious devilment by Joe Steiner. This was a study of pseudo-sophistication, mingled with comical curmudgeonly cunning. A very well-realized bad guy, who could belt out his songs with tuneful ferocity.

His offices at the Urine Good Company were peopled by a loathsome but likeable gathering of sycophants, namely, the crass Senator Fipp, comically and creepily created by Richard Brown; the lanky, laconic dogsbody, Mr McQueen, played with apathetic glee by Tomás Glynn; the dull and desultory Dr. Billeaux, confidently captured by Mick Gallagher, and the token office-totty, Mrs Millennium, played with vacuous vanity and verve by Nicola O’Sullivan.

Hannah Dowling gave an excellent performance as Officer Barrel, sharp on her slap-stick comedy, agile in the execution of her routines and a strong vocal accomplice to Officer Lockstock.

Cherise O’Moore acted delightfully, even if her dancing was perhaps too energetic and accomplished for a heavily pregnant Little Becky Two-Shoes, (I did worry for the baby!), but herself and Paul Massé, as Hot Blades Harry, gave strong leadership to the chorus, and they shone for their individual characters and the confident and scary delivery of their musical pieces. Paul Holloway and Linda Murray, as Old Man Strong and Ma Strong, gave great character to the down and out parents of Bobby Strong, and Amy Kelly was equally impressive as Soupy Sue.

Choreographer, Chris Corroon, came on board fairly late for this production, but it did not deter him from inventing some excellent and create routines, all of which seemed well rehearsed and slick in execution. The Cop Song was a highlight, with Run Freedom Run a close second, but in fairness, all the routines were good, with some lovely comedic touches. Don’t Be The Bunny was particularly funny. I must also acknowledge the contribution of choreographer, Jay Molyneux, who got rehearsals started and then had to withdraw, having set a good standard with Snuff That Girl and Mr. Cladwell. For both choreographers, the dancers and chorus all gave a good account of themselves and seemed to really enjoy their contribution.

But as a chorus, their outstanding contribution to the production was their vocal quality. Their energy, their harmonies, the precise diction, the power and sometimes the gentle melodic phrases, every piece of music was a treat for the audience. The showstoppers were Privilege

to Pee, Act One Finale, Run Freedom Run and I See a River, but they were only marginally better than all the other pieces, in a show that was, musically, of the very highest standard. Which brings me to their Musical director, Ger Madden. For all the above mentioned reasons, it was the excellence of the work he did with the chorus that made this a very special show, and if that wasn’t enough, he also led, from the piano, a very strong band who gave sass and soul to the musical score, playing with pace and precision. The principals were equally well rehearsed and were solid and secure in all their vocals, making the overall vocal and musical quality of this show quite outstanding.

It is easy to see why this highly comical and somewhat irreverent show is becoming popular on the local circuit, offering, as it does, great opportunities for choral and dance involvement and a plethora of wonderful and exaggerated characters. It was certainly a good choice for Athlone, who, thanks to a strong production team, managed to put together a most spirited, outrageous and engaging night of entertainment.

Some photos kindly shared by the society - Photographer - Liam Kidney


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