NEW PORT RICHEY
In what was, arguably, the strongest and most up-to-date season of musicals at Richey Suncoast Theatre, the quirky comedy Urinetown was the big winner at the 2015-16 Charlie Awards on Saturday, the theater's version of the Tony Awards, named in honor of the late managing director Charlie Skelton.
Winners are chosen by popular vote of audiences, and the darkly funny comedy won eight of 11 awards given in the "musical" category (there was one tie).
On the comedy side, audiences sided with the rather outdated 1962 comedy If a Man Answers, giving it six out of seven awards over the rather risqué Key for Two.
If a Man Answers has a wise French mother teaching her American daughter how to lie to and manipulate her husband by using a pseudo-lover who calls and hangs up, with the idea that the jealous husband will become more attentive. Key for Two has a clever woman juggling two married men as her lovers in order to support her upscale lifestyle.
On the musical side, all three of the season's shows hit Broadway in the 21st century, a departure from the usual inclusion of at least one classic, sometimes more, from early to mid-20th century. Urinetown opened on Broadway in 2001, while the other two musicals hit even later — The Drowsy Chaperone in 2006 and Young Frankenstein in 2007. All three musicals were well received by RST audiences.
Urinetown is a tale from the future, when water is so scarce that people aren't allowed to flush their toilets. When the stench of bodily wastes in the bushes becomes overpowering, an enterprising businessman establishes public toilets, then persuades corrupt politicians to require everyone to pay to use them. It sounds horrible, but it is hilariously funny (especially as done by Richey Suncoast) and even comes with a uproariously cynical take on human nature in the end.
The Drowsy Chaperone is subtitled A Musical Within a Comedy and has a narrator explaining the intricacies of musical theater, at some points joining the cast to demonstrate what he means. Young Frankenstein is the musical version of Mel Brooks' 1974 parody of both old-fashioned horror flicks and Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, about a monster created by a mad scientist from the body parts he steals from cemeteries.