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Review of Urinetown The Musical by Miss:CREATES at the Castle Theatre (Studio), Wellingborough

I first saw Urinetown in London in November 2014 as an add-on for a trip to see another show (best not to comment on that one) and it was one of the easiest five stars I have ever awarded on this blog. An absolute joy from beginning to end, with super intelligent writing and some of the very best musical numbers you could want. It is the musical soundtrack that I have listened to by far the most since and remains up there in my favourite shows ever.

Therefore by fortune on a previous trip to the Castle, I spotted a flyer for the Miss:CREATES version of the show coming up and without question I knew I had to see it again. I also knew that other people needed to see beyond the title and theme and see it as I knew they would not regret it. So a social media campaign began to plug, plug and plug the show. Sadly no many fell for the bait, but that is unquestionably their loss.

However, could an amateur version of the show being performed in the small studio Castle Theatre live up to the standard of that at the Apollo, London? Well quite amazingly, the answer is generally yes. This is brimming with an exceptional cast, all seemingly expertly selected. Our narrator is Officer Lockstock played by David Russell with a delightfully quiet menace, almost too softly spoken at times. He guides us with the help of the sweet, soft toy clutching Little Sally (a wonderfully enthusiastic Kaye Stevens) into the tale, setting the scene of the "conceit" of the show that private toilets are no more because of devastating water shortages. We all must pay for that privilege to pee.

It is a slightly high scale crazy concept and one for a musical seems absurd, however creators Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis craft the tale with a self mocking edge at all times, drifting beyond the fourth wall often and forming some remarkably strong characters during the two hour show.

The cast have successfully breathed life into those characters. John Simpson creates an exceedingly slimy and wicked Caldwell B. Cladwell successfully demonising his workers and the money guided Senator Fipp (a brilliant Alan Galway). Simpson's performances of Mr Cladwell is wonderfully fun, while his Don't Be The Bunny (one of my favourites) is wickedly devilish.

I loved the casting of Becky Woodham and Mark Woodham as Josephine Strong and Old Man Strong, while Dan Hodson was an immensely strong Bobby Strong. That staging and performance of Run, Freedom, Run a particular highlight of the whole show. Sam McLaughlin was an effervescent Hope Cladwell, tremendously powerful singing and needed with her having some of the toughest songs to perform.

Perhaps the star turn though comes from Julie Futcher as Penelope Pennywise. I do feel the strongest character of the show, however it still needs a star turn to deliver the goods and that, saddled with garish make-up and flicking fag, Futcher delivers in bountiful amounts.

The ensemble work is also quite excellent, with some superb work done on the choreography. There are also some sneaky scene stealing moments by the wonderful Rita Gee during the group numbers. The small five piece band directed by Kaye Tompkins creates the superb music in a wonderfully powerful way, filling the studio with gorgeous sound. Director Sue Ebsworth on the relatively small but brilliantly constructed set uses every inch of space on offer to create a surprisingly big spectacle.

So perhaps my favourite musical recreated by Miss:CREATES with an expert amount of care. This truly is a show that needs to be seen beyond the theme and title (it is quite deliberate) and be heralded as what it is, a stunningly brilliant show. I challenge anyone to say after watching this that they didn't like it and this version is a particularly well created one at that. Get your head out the clouds and take a trip to Urinetown.


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 12th April, 2016 at the Castle Theatre (Studio), Wellingborough.

Urinetown The Musical by Miss:CREATES runs at the Castle Theatre (Studio), Wellingborough until Saturday 16th, 2016. Details can be found at http://www.thecastle.org.uk/urinetown-the-musical

For details about The Castle see their website at http://thecastle.org.uk/


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