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Review of Urinetown The Musical at the Apollo Theatre, London

While I had seen several theatre musicals this year at the local Royal & Derngate, I had yet to experience the full London effect until I settled down in my seat at the Apollo to watch Urinetown. I had grown to like musicals more this year after my first live one Blood Brothers in March and finally decided to make the effort in the big city. Also despite publicity and negative comments regarding the title Urinetown, this made it appeal to me slightly more to my bizarre mind. I am glad I did, what I witnessed was two glorious hours of fun, frolics, dark (very dark) humour, blood, dance and some singing as well. It is a musical.

On arrival in the theatre the set from Soutra Gilmour cuts an imposing, perfect dystopian figure. Tough steel work, dull and grim, perfect. Before the show begins the creepy Officer Lockstock (Jonathan Slinger) starts to prowl the stage and is soon joined by Little Sal (understudy Katie Bernstein on my evening). As the show begins these two break the fourth wall and welcome us to Urinetown, not the place very importantly, the musical. Little Sal gallops forth with hints and too quick progress of the story and Lockstock reins her in. However we are in a world where water shortage has ruled out private toilets and public amenities are the only place to go, to go, as it were.

The whole production from beginning to end for me is one of exceptional quality, filled with both funny and very high quality (and catchy) songs. The full gamut of music is on offer from fast paced songs, to ballads and a most glorious gospel song in the form of "Run, Freedom, Run". Song titles are also a fine purveyor of the darkness on offer, what other West End musical could you listen to "It's A Privilage To Pee" or "Snuff That Girl"? All songs are performed to superbly choreographed pieces by Ann Lee, with so much going on you can never see it all.

Performances from the entire company are excellent throughout. Stand outs are Matthew Seadon-Young as Bobby Strong and Simon Paisley Day as the oily Caldwell B Cladwell, while Slinger and Bernstein hold the piece neatly together with their partly narrating roles. Jenna Russell as Penelope Pennywise also steals the stage whenever she appears.

Returning to the set, I have to say that the revolving section is an inspired idea and used in incredibly inventive ways throughout the whole show. Itself offering an almost constant comedy role to the performers, that it could be a cast member. Quite superb.

For me much like The Play That Goes Wrong could be a perfect play for a reluctant theatre goer to experience, I would have no worry about recommending that this could well be the perfect first show for a reluctant musical goer as well. It shuns off all the soppy, whimsical stuff that many musicals dwell on, while also being a very good musical to boot. The title is dodgy maybe, buts it is only a title, so get over it and go and see a gloriously darkly funny comedy musical.

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Performance viewed: Wednesday 19th November, 2014 at the Apollo, London.

Urinetown The Musical continues is currently booking at the Apollo Theatre, London until 10th January, 2015 but is shortly to go through several cast changes, so to see much of the original cast go soon. Also there is a lot happens high on stage, so seat recommendations from me would be further back stalls or perhaps even better in the circle for perfect viewing.
Details can be found at http://www.urinetown.co.uk/

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