Left to right: Andrew Wheeler, David Adams, Anton Lipovetsky and Chris Cochrane. (photo by David Cooper)
If Saturday night’s performance of Urinetown was any indication, the Jewish community has two rising stars in its midst.
Triple-threats Anton Lipovetsky and Andrew Cohen are actors to watch; and the latest production at the Firehall is a perfect opportunity to see them show off their singing, acting and dancing talent.
Despite its unfortunate name, which gives rise to equally unfortunate double-entendres in theatre reviews, Urinetown did live up to the hype that’s labeled it a Broadway hit. Not one for musicals, I’m happy to say this one kept me entertained throughout the performance, due in no small part to the fancy footwork directed by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg and Tony Award-winning lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis.
Urinetown takes place in a “town like any town you might find in a musical,” according to the narrator (who jumps periodically out of his role as Police Officer Lockstock to educate the audience about the workings of a play). The year is some point in the middle of a long drought, water is scarce and free toilets have been overburdened in what have become known as the “stink years.”
Facilities are now owned by private companies who charge people for their use. Thus the request, “A penny for a pee?” becomes the begging mantra of street people looking to relieve themselves. If they can’t afford the few cents to get in the doors, their only recourse is to do their business in a public space, for which they will get arrested and sent to Urinetown. The audience doesn’t get to see Urinetown until the second act, so we’ll avoid the spoiler here. Suffice to say, it’s known as a really undesirable spot, and one to avoid at all costs. So paying a fee to pee is really the only option.
In the rather stale part of this “town like any town,” a group of homeless people around “Amenity #9” start to revolt against a new fee hike. The group is led by Bobby Strong (Lipovetsky), who happens to be in love with Hope (aptly named, of course), the daughter of Caldwell B. Cladwell (stage veteran Andrew Wheeler). Cladwell is CEO of Urine Good Co., which owns the private toilets. In this case, the love interest doesn’t get in the way of a good revolution, thankfully, and eventually the impoverished cast free themselves from the shackles of the tinkle toll. Is it a time for celebration? You’ll have to see the play to find out.
The role Lipovetsky has been given in this play serves to highlight his incredible singing talent, comedic flair and even his ability to direct the cast in a choir-like ensemble near the end.
The play only demonstrates a few of Lipovetsky’s skills, actually. The gifted 24-year-old has already won a Jessie Award for outstanding composition for the musical Broken Sex Doll (currently on its second run, playing until Nov. 22 at the Cultch’s York Theatre) and he shared the 2011 Mayor’s Arts Award in Theatre with Bard on the Beach artistic director Christopher Gaze. Lipovetsky won for best emerging actor and playwright.
For his part, Cohen has also been busy in the B.C. theatre scene, appearing in Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof and The Laramie Project, as well as becoming one of the finalists on CBC’s Triple Sensation TV show and performing in the 2010 Olympic Games Closing Ceremonies. He also does sound design and composes. (See “A next gen of theatre artists,” Nov. 7, jewishindependent.ca.)
Besides these fabulous contributors are Wheeler as the nasty, money-grubbing CEO, David Adams as the singing/dancing/narrating officer and Michelle Bardach as Hope. As well, numerous quirky directorial choices, such as having Strong freeze with an expression as though he’d been stung by a bee every time he has a flashback, and Little Sally (Tracey Power) jumping in and out of character to ask the narrator questions about the play, meld to create a surprisingly fun, witty and thoroughly enjoyable production.
Urinetown is at the Firehall Arts Centre until Nov. 27.
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.