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Nick's Pics
Nick Nicholson
Film & Home Entertainment Critic
 

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.
 
Urinetown: The Musical  

Imagine for a minute that the act of urination is no longer free. You have to pay every time you go to the restroom because of a massive drought in your town. Not only that, but the crippling fees are continually being raised to fill the greedy pockets of the corporation in control. Those who cannot pay get dragged off to Urinetown, a mysterious place from which they never return. This is the primary problem the citizens of Urinetown experience. Finally, one latrine manager leads the people in rebellion. The catch is that the ingÈnue he loves is the daughter of the corporation’s greedy president. And then the fun really starts! If you think this is strange, just wait until you see what else lies in store with this musical. Actually, this winner of the Tony Awards Triple Crown in 2003 is fiendishly clever, even more so in the wonderful new Main Street Theater production at the Chelsea Market Theatre. The production manages to bring out the delightfully tongue in cheek humor of the piece, while also making the production fresh and new. Don’t let the title scare you off – Urinetown is the wackiest musical satire in decades. If you love musical theater and have an offbeat sense of humor, this show will make you cavort with laughter. You know you are in for something different when the conductor arrives for the overture with a police escort. Leading the cast is Kregg Alan Dailey as Officer Lockstock, the play’s version of an emcee. Dailey has the dry wit and dead-pan line delivery of his character down pat. His priceless facial expressions and comic timing never fail. He’s especially amusing in his scenes with Little Sally, played with hysterical naivety by Katharine Randolph. These two characters head an extraordinarily quirky and talented ensemble that makes an impression much greater than its 16 member size. The head of the corporation, Urine Good Company, is Caldwell B. Cladwell, played by Jimmy Phillips. Phillips plays the role very competently. The level of distaste the audience develops for him is simply a tribute to his acting ability. He simply sells slime for a profit. One of Cladwell’s employees is the keeper of Public Amenity #9, femme fatale Penelope Pennywise. In this role,

Susan Shofner makes a splash, with both her amazingly versatile vocal instrument and her flair for comedy. Shofner brings her own idiosyncratic characteristics to the role, giving it a distinct stamp that makes the character her own. The final two of the leading players are the romantic duo of Hope Cladwell and assistant custodian Bobby Strong. As the female half, Alison Luff makes a strong impression in all of her scenes. She lets loose during her solo in the finale, which again demonstrates the power of her vocal power. In the end, the show belongs to Michael J. Ross as Bobby Strong. His characterization hits the perfect balance between believable and zany, which is a mix that is essential to the success of Urinetown. What really makes him irresistible is his good fortune to have access to the material in Urinetown that really lets his significant vocal prowess soar. As the anchor of the show, Ross shines as golden as, well, you know. Director Ilich Guardiola has staged this show with the perfect tone and pace that never lets the show lag and lands every punch of comic humor like that of a heavy weight fighter. I cannot recommend Urinetown more highly. With the show closing in another week, I would definitely contact the Main Street Theater, Chelsea Market. Urine for a good time with Urinetown, that’s for sure.


DVD Picks

OPEN SEASON - Sony

Open Season is an animated action-adventure that follows the fortunes of two forest-animal misfits. Boog (Martin Lawrence) is a gentle and domesticated bear; Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) is an absentminded and accident-prone deer who has been shunned by his herd. Together, they struggle to adapt to the ways of life in the wild and on their own. Boog longs to return to the cushy conditions he had with Beth (Debra Messing), an animal-loving park ranger who rescued him and raised him as a pet from the time he was a cub. Desperate to please his new friend, who spared him from an overzealous hunter (Gary Sinise), Elliot tries to help lead Boog back to the mountainside town, but instead they are met with hostility by their fellow forest creatures, including a combative squirrel, McSquizzy (Billy Connelly); a perfectionist beaver, Reilly (Jon Favreau); and a machismo-fueled deer, Ian (Patrick Warburton), who is Elliot’s nemesis. Now, with hunting season upon them, they must all align to defend themselves against the hunters that annually plague their domain. While obviously geared toward kids, Open Season covers quite a few adult themes, including the comparison of man and beast. By pitting animals against hunters, the film operates from a pro-animal and pro-environmentstance. It also conveys the importance of getting along with those different from ourselves, and encourages teamwork and acceptance of others. The PG-rated film includes some mature references, includingrude humor and mild violence, but overall offers entertainment appropriate for the whole family.

THE ILLUSIONIST - Fox

The Illusionist is a supernatural mystery that combines romance, politics and magic. The film stars Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti as two men pitted against each other in a battle of wits. Norton plays a mysterious stage magician, Eisenheim, who bends nature’s laws to his will in front of awestruck crowds. Giamatti co-stars as Vienna’s shrewd Chief Inspector Uhl, a man committed to uphold the law and for whom magic holds no place in his ordered world. Jessica Biel shares the screen as the beautiful and enigmatic Sophie von Teschen, who finds her future inexorably altered when she encounters the man called Eisenheim, and Eisenheim comes dangerously close to unlocking the dark secret of the monarchy that she holds.

When Eisenheim begins to perform his astounding illusions in Vienna, word quickly spreads of his otherworldly powers...even reaching the ears of one of Europe’s most powerful and pragmatic men, Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). Certain that the illusionist is nothing more than an accomplished fraud, Leopold attends one of Eisenheim’s shows, convinced that he can debunk him during the performance. But when the Prince’s beautiful fiancÈ and companion, Sophie von Teschen, assists the magician onstage, Eisenheim and Sophie recognize each other from their childhoods-and a dormant love affair is rekindled. With Eisenheim and Leopold vying for Sophie’s affection, it quickly becomes apparent that both will go to any length to claim and keep her love.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY - MGM

Joe Buck (Jon Voight), an aspiring male prostitute from Texas, heads to Manhattan where he hopes to find plenty of wealthy women willing to pay for the services of a handsome man. When he arrives, the naive country boy befriends Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), a tubercular homeless con artist who dreams of moving to Florida. As they go about trying to get the money Ratso needs, the two men confront the seediness, corruption, and cruelty that flourish in the big city. Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy, this Oscar-winning film (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay) features brilliant performances by Voight and Hoffman, and brings to the screen an unusually gritty realism in its portrayal of the streets of New York City.

THE APARTMENT - MGM

Billy Wilder’s The Apartment blends his customary harsh cynicism with a humane streak that appears only fleetingly in his films. It stars Jack Lemmon as C.C. Baxter, an office clerk who curries favor with the executives in his office by giving them the key to his small apartment for the odd afternoon dalliance. Among them his is his callous boss, J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), who Baxter eventually learns is using his place to sleep with Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), the sweet elevator operator the clerk has loved from afar. When Sheldrake coldly dumps the vulnerable young woman, she tries to commit suicide, but is saved by the intervention of Baxter. As the clerk lovingly nurses the young woman back to health he begins to realize, with the help of epigrammatic neighbor Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), exactly how much of a fool he has been. Wilder brilliant depiction of the average American office as a place of brutality, coldness, and alienation conjure up Kafka and Marx. The director seduces the audience into what appears to be an unusually frank sex comedy, but turns the tables in displaying the consequences of the executive’s cold indifference.

Lemmon and MacLaine both give career performances and MacMurray is memorable as the blandly smiling snake.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  February 08, 2007