So the funny thing is that I had started writing down my thoughts about Urinetown on Monday and was kind of stumped. I wanted to talk about Angela Shipley, who has now officially joined the list of my favorite actresses in town, but had reached an impasse. I had two things in particular I wanted to say:
First off, while watching Urinetown, I had no idea who she was until I read the program at intermission. What was great about that? Well, I just saw her a couple of months ago in Austin’s Bridge, a stand-out performance in a show I ended up not particularly liking, and yet I didn’t recognize her as Hope Cladwell. Her Donna in “Bridge” was earthy and warm and genuine while Hope is naïve and flighty and coquettish. The characters are so different, I never would have imagined them played by the same actress. And yet Angela embodied them both completely and beautifully.
Secondly, I like that she doesn’t overplay Hope, who is a character who could be simply ridiculous (Brett Ambler also does a great job of not overdoing it with Bobby). But even though she doesn’t go too broad, she does bring some great comic business to the stage. I particularly liked her seemingly guileless ripping open of Bobby’s shirt, to just listen to his heart (hmmm…sure…) And of course the "dancing while tied up" scene is impressive. Finally, because she doesn’t overplay the farcical Hope, her turnaround at the end fits just fine and anchors the stirring, almost bittersweet conclusion.
But I didn’t post these thoughts earlier in the week because in general, if you’re listing things, three is the way to go. Two just doesn’t cut it. Lock, stock and barrel; blood, sweat, and tears; etc. etc. Threes just work better. I thought about pointing out that in the program she thanks Tom and Paul for taking a chance on a “newbie.” Ha! Clearly, after “Bridge” and “U-town,” (not to mention Agamemnon’s Daughters at Sycamore Rouge), she is no longer a novice so that piece of modesty was endearing. But that tidbit didn’t seem compelling enough to round out the three.
But now, thanks to her comment on “Worst Ever,” I know that she reads this blog. THAT is certainly an indication that not only is she a superior actress but also an Internet surfer with refined tastes, giving me a third thing to praise her for!
In addition to Angela’s performance, there were many other great things to enjoy in “U-Town.” I thought Scott Melton was excellent as Officer Lockstock, lending the perfect amount of gravitas to the hilarious self-referential vignettes. The “Tell Her I Love Her” song got me laughing – not to Mr. Guffaw levels, but close – and showcased Audra’s abundant talent. Brandon Becker’s choreography was notable, peppered as it was with wonderful little dance jokes (Hey Brandon, going to be able to drop back to “just” singing and acting for the Plaid Xmas show?)
My friend (and perhaps yours too!) Jerry enjoyed the show a great deal, having hated the Broadway production he saw several years ago. Both the lovely mrs and I enjoyed the show a bunch as well. But there is sometimes a problem with a show as wink-wink, nudge-nudge self-aware as “U-town” is: the show asks you to care about people and their relationships and motivations, at least enough to pay attention during the show, but then also makes it clear in the attitude of the show that none of it is to be taken too seriously – it is after all only a musical. There’s a little bit of emotional dissonance there that diminishes the show a bit – at least that was how Mrs. T and I ended up feeling.
I’m not going to march out a parade of adjectives like Ms Haubenstock did in her review’s list of how transcendent everyone in the cast was. I do agree that everyone did a great job, though, and I hope the show is drawing some good crowds.
Another thought, not related to U-town at all: it was cool but a little confusing to see Erin Thomas and Laine Satterfield in the paper last week. The story connected to their picture was about the new Stony Point school partnership but Erin and Laine both had their SPARC shirts on and were not quoted or mentioned specifically in the article. I’m glad Laine, Erin and SPARC all got some exposure, I just wonder whether the editors thought very clearly about the picture and how it fit with the story.