Review: In Pangdemonium's 'Urinetown', corrupt politicians and greedy capitalists get flushed out
Power to the people
It's funny how Urinetown, a Tony-winning satirical comedy musical that was first presented at the New York Fringe Festival almost a decade ago, can be so prescient and relevant to Singapore today.
The show's premise is set in a dystopian future, where a fictional "world's most expensive city" is facing a "cross-border water crisis". Sounds familiar? Singapore currently reigns as the world's most expensive city in the world for the fifth year in a row. Furthermore, just as Urinetown opened last week, it was reported that the water level of Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which provides water to Singapore, had fallen ominously below 50 per cent due to prolonged dry weather.
The similarities end there, though. Due to the water shortage, private toilets have been ceased and instead, pay-to-use public lavatories have been erected by Urine Good Company, a monopolistic corporation that's led by money-hungry megalomaniac Caldwell B. — played almost campily by Sean Ghazi.
The show's mise-en-scène was impressive on its own; rusty post-apocalyptic metal constrasted beautifully with costumes that reminded me of Japanese fashion designer Junya Watanabe's patchwork cottons.
Theoretically, the show's hero was the dashing Bobby Strong, a good-natured yet naive toilet custodian played by Benjamin Chow, who instigated the poor to stage an uprising in the second act with a resounding gospel rendition of "Run, Freedom, Run!".
Yet, it was the unlikely chemistry between street kid Little Sally (Mae Elliessa) and policeman Lockstock (Adrian Pang) that stole the show, breaking the fourth wall to hilarious effect.
Besides some questionable American accents, the rest of the ensemble was on point too. Mina Ellen Kaye's stellar vocal work as female lead Hope reached the heights of Whitney Houston at one point; vibrant dance choreography hinted at theatre classics such as Les Miserables as well as Michael Jackson's "Thriller"; protest placards and props even referenced the ongoing police brutality in Hong Kong.
Pangdemonium wraps up its 2019 season on a fitting note, capturing the year's popular cultural sentiments by taking the piss out of corrupt politicians, power-obsessed capitalists, and shady policemen.
In 2020, it'll be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a juicy season that includes a revival of its sold-out 2010 production, Full Monty.