A privilege to pee? You must be kidding me.
Artistic director John Sbordone says the words with a mischievous gleam in his eye when talking about the next show in the CRT line up. Even the name gives me heebie geebies.
It reminds me of the days when travelers literally had to pay to use the bathroom at the South of the Border attraction on I-95, but in reality it’s a show that will have you roaring with laughter if you dare get past the name.
Packed full of City Repertory Theatre’s most talented actors, swinging from the rafters, if you will, this 2001 musical satire is up next for City Repertory Theatre patrons.
Sitting down with cast members last week, the interview – on the record, of course, is a pure riot, but probably not suitable for polite company, in the best kind of way.
Meeting actors Beau Wade – the animated narrator Officer Lockstock and briny Penelope Pennywise played by Phillipa Rose, the pair share a bit about why they’ve chosen to be part of this comedic travesty where when good goes bad, bad goes to Urinetown.
“The subject matter sounds grosser than it is. It is not a disgusting play. It’s a very, very funny play,” shares Wade, who recommended it for the 11th season.
“It’s a satire on all musicals that came before it. There’s 15 or 16 songs in this thing and each one is parodying a different song. You can point at a different Golden Age musical and would be like – this song is that song in that play.”
Opening the show with her big number, “It’s a Privilege to Pee”, Penny Pennywise takes the audience into the story’s history of the drought, leading up to their current situation.
“I run the amenity in the poorest, filthiest part of town, Amenity Number 9 – so we’re using the bathroom,” she said.
She’s enjoying playing a character with a bit of a mean streak who may have a redeeming quality or two.
“She’s kind of, I want to say she’s tough but she has a past. That’s really all I can say without giving away too much of the plot,” hints Rose. “It’s fun to be somebody I’m not. I’m not necessarily this tough girl, but it’s fun to be that person.”
Earl Levine takes on the role of Caldwell B. Cladwell, and from the moment he walks through the door mid-interview, I can’t be sure if he’s playing himself or me. It’s a level of experience that can only come from someone who’s honed his skills with days and nights on Broadway among some of the most talented actors of his time.
He’s simply fascinating to watch.
“I think the part requires an actor with a great deal of experience. It’s written in a way that not everyone could get as much out of it as I do,” said Levine. “I’m a character person, I bring character to everything I do. I can’t help it. I have to have fun.”
Amused, Sbordone sits back and watches the cast play off one another.
The battle of wits and mutual admiration goes way back – Levine and Wade banter about roles while Sbordone recalls Wade’s earliest days under his direction, dating back to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” nearly a decade ago, and working with Phillipa Rose on the stage at Matanzas High School years ago.
It’s the kind of cast so at ease with each other that they make you believe, each and every time you take your seat in the theatre.
But back to the subject at hand.
“Urinetown” that is. Cast members file through the door for rehearsals one by one, ready to slip into the roles of Little Becky Two Shoes, Officer Barrel (the partner of Officer Lockstock, naturally), Tiny Tom, Hot Blades Harry and more, and put the humor in what is a decidedly challenging situation – a global drought and water shortage that hinders the inability to use the restroom freely, as the hero Bobby Strong, rallies the people to break the monopoly on restrooms through revolution.
“Beau proposed this show and it’s really quite excellent,” said Sbordone. “It’s a big Broadway hit, and is just exceptional. We set up the theatre so that we’re using everything from the front door to the back bathroom. There will be a great deal of audience participation and they become part of the revolution.”
Assured that in spite of it’s name, there’s only one restroom scene in the whole show, Sbordone promises that between the stellar cast, vocal showcases and punchlines, Urine Good Company.
If You Go:
City Repertory Theatre presents “Urinetown”
When: October 22-24 & October 29-31
Fri & Sat: 7:30 PM, Sun: 3:00 PM
Tickets: $30/adult, $15/student
Address: 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B207
In City Marketplace, Palm Coast, FL
Photos: Mike Kitaif