Feeling Flushed

In a dystopian world where water has nearly dried up, private toilets no longer exist.  Now people are forced to pay to use pissoirs and woe betide any who think they can simply publicly relieve themselves for they will pay a high price indeed.  This is Urinetown:  The Musical and it is currently playing at the City Theatre of Independence.

It’s amazing how fate works.  I was sitting in my hotel room in Oak Grove, MO looking for something to do when I stumbled upon this theatre and it happened to be opening night for this show.  I’d heard good things about the production so decided to buy a ticket.  But, dang it, it was so good that I felt compelled to write a review for it.

This show is a lot of fun.

Greg Kotis has written a very clever and satisfying show.  Kotis is obviously a fan of musical theatre as this show has influences from Newsies, Les Miserables, and West Side Story.  But he turns the genre on its head and inside out.  The show is meta as the two narrators are aware they’re in a musical and often reveal salient plot points before they occur.  It’s also surprisingly dark, but that’s often forgotten due to the comedic presentation and the light and fun music of Kotis and Mark Hollman.  Kotis and Hollman borrow from many types of music as you get show tunes, ballads, and a truly rocking Gospel number that brought the house down.

Coralyn Martin provides some truly fine directing for this piece as she just dives into its absurdity.  The staging is the best I’ve ever seen in a production as she doesn’t just use the entire theatre space.  She uses the entire building.  Cast members were wandering the lobby before the show and coming out during intermission to keep the story going.  I also truly admired how the cast members slowly appeared on stage before the show began and stayed in character from their first appearance to their final bow.  Martin gets all she can out of the script and guides the actors to very strong performances as they know how to be over the top just enough to be funny, but keep under the point where it would be caricature and ridiculous. 

The supporting cast is chock full of good performances, but some real standouts came from Wendy Buchheit who gives a PhD level class in how to be present in a scene.  Seldom have I seen such animation in body, facial expressions, and eyes (which seemed to operate independently of each other) as she just threw herself into Hot Blades Harry.  Adeana Carr is hilarious as Little Sally.  Carr is very convincing as a precocious little kid and I love the touch that she is also the smartest character in the show.  Cora Hoaglin has a sizzling debut for the theatre as the crotchety, semi-villainous Penelope Pennywise who manages the pissoir on the poor side of town.  Hoaglin has mastered the fine art of projection and could have a fine future in opera with that superhuman soprano which gets to take center stage when she belts out “It’s a Privilege to Pee”.

De’Markus Howell had the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he stepped on the stage as Officer Lockstock for he just has that natural “it” presence.  It’s an interesting twist to have a villain be the narrator and Howell seems to wallow in his corrupt nature especially as he knows he’s virtually bulletproof from repercussions due to his godlike status as the narrator.  I was also extremely amused by his theatrical poses every time he said the show was a musical.  Howell also has a deadly baritone which thrilled the audience in “Urinetown” and “Cop Song”.

Alex West epitomizes the greedy CEO as Caldwell B. Cladwell.  West revels in his power as the ruler of this pathetic world as he takes every last cent from the public to fund a lavish trip to Rio.  But West also gives Cladwell the minutest picoparticle of decency because his policies have actually enabled people to survive.  He just snuffs out the decency by making them pay through the nose to use a toilet.  West also has a superlative tenor which shines brightly in “Mr. Cladwell” and “Don’t Be the Bunny”.

Olivia Franklin is very sweet as Hope Cladwell.  Assuredly, she isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree and comes off even less intelligent as that due to her innocence.  But you have to admire her determination to see the best in every brigand and every hopeless situation, even as she helps to contribute, albeit unwittingly, to that hopelessness by not understanding just how truly dire things are in this world.  Franklin’s honey of a soprano gets to do the heart tugging numbers of “Follow Your Heart” and “I See a River”.

Ken Koval makes for a worthy hero as Bobby Strong.  Koval ticks all the boxes of a hero’s rise as starts as the unwilling participant in the machine of this world before the death of his father and the awakening of his heart inspire him to lead a revolution against the greedy elite.  Koval gives Bobby a unique blend of courage, naivete, and cowardice.  He also has a bright tenor which can be hopeful as in “Look to the Sky”, loving as in “Tell Her I Love Her”, or just plain fun as in my favorite number “Run, Freedom, Run”.

Mike Hadley has designed a nice derelict set of a beaten concrete edifice so realistic that I thought it was stone.  Hadley also skillfully designed the lights with the green phantasmagoric lights used when the dead show up to the use of a simple pinkish spotlight on Hope whenever she launches into a solo number.  Valerie Minniear’s costumes well suit the status of the characters from the cheap clothes and rags of the poor to the elegant suits and dresses of the elite and I really liked the sparkling vests and dresses of the performers in the “Mr. Cladwell” number.  Carlye Stone’s choreography really got to sparkle in the second act with the big flashy numbers of “Snuff that Girl” and “Run, Freedom, Run”.  Blair Walker and his orchestra rise to the challenge of the varied score like champs and strike every emotional note and fun tone with aplomb and kudos to Walker for the funniest cameo of the night.

There were a few blips during the night.  Feedback drowned out dialogue at certain points.  Microphones seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag.  Some members of the supporting cast also need to be more animated in the group scenes.  I could tell they were working the scenes in their heads.  Now they just need to push out the mental work to their bodies.

This show was a delightful and fun surprise with a little something for everyone.  If you’re looking for an immersive, rib-tickling good time, then go see Urinetown:  The Musical.

Urinetown:  The Musical runs through Sept 18 at the City Theatre of Independence.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on Fri-Sat and 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased at the Box Office, by calling 816-370-6654, or visiting citytheatreofindependence.org.  The City Theatre of Independence is located in the Powerhouse Theatre within the Roger T. Sermon Center at 201 N Dodgion in Independence, MO.

Scottish Midwest: Woodstock Inn

Woodstock Inn

Today the road has brought me to Independence, MO.

For the first time ever, I have returned to a city to review a different inn.  A few years ago, I was in the KC area to review The Crucible for the Barn Players and reviewed Silver Heart Inn while I was in the area and you can read that article here.  Today I was back to review Woodstock Inn owned by Kim Morgan.

The inn holds quite a bit of history as it was originally the home of Morris Short and his family in the 1890s.  Within one hundred yards of the inn, one can find a historical marker designating a Confederate line.  So part of the Civil War was fought almost literally at the doorstep of the inn. 

The inn’s most famous resident was Ruby McKim, the daughter of Morris & Viola Short who was famed quilter who turned the home into McKim Studios which later evolved into Kimport’s Dolls.  In the 1980s, the inn was repurposed into a B & B with each room themed to a different country and changed hands several times before Kim Morgan took over ownership.

I had arranged to arrive at 1pm and was greeted at the door by the innkeeper, Debbie Gardner, who led me to the Scottish King Room.  Inside the room one finds hallmarks of bonnie Scotland including a painting of a Scottie, a pair of bagpipes hanging on the wall and a flat cap akin to the style favored in Scotland also adorns a wall with a cane.

The room is quite large and its sky blue walls and thick off-white carpeting instantly began stoking relaxation.  A gas fireplace is present on the far wall while the king bed sits in the centerish of the room.

Normally, I would have used the additional time to visit sites of interest, but due to a combination of the off-season, renovations and COVID I found that the museums and historic homes were closed.  However, I did enjoy a lengthy walk through the historic neighborhood and spent a bit of time admiring the architecture of the headquarters of Community of Christ.

After my walk I returned to the inn where I caught an online church service before heading out for a bit of dinner at A Little BBQ Joint

The sign is very truthful as it is a little BBQ joint.  And with social distancing protocols, it’s even littler.  But it serves a good meal as I enjoyed a bowl of thick Brisket Chili loaded with plenty of vegetables. 

With dinner digesting, I went back to the inn.  Woodstock Inn has a small commons area which also serves as the dining area.  A large, cozy fireplace is the centerpiece of the room and off to the side is a small area where one can find baked goods in the afternoon and a movie library.

I caught up on a couple of TV shows before calling it an early night.  Such a wonderful sleep.  The heavy blankets combined with what felt like a memory foam mattress put my lights out good and proper and I dreamily remember barely waking up once before turning over to sleep on my stomach.

Thanks to a rejuvenating sleep, I awoke energized and ready for breakfast where I enjoyed a Crème Brule French Toast with yogurt topped with fruit and granola, a lemon/cranberry (I think) muffin and a thin slice of ham.

Creme Brule French Toast, lemon/cranberry muffin, ham and yogurt with fruit and granola

With breakfast tucked away, I headed back to Omaha and reality.

Woodstock Inn is a comfortable inn suitable for a romantic night with your loved one and is just a hop, skip and jump from shopping, restaurants, Community of Christ headquarters and a bit of history and is worthy of a visit.

Until the next time. . .happy travels.

An Independent Man in Independence, MO: The Silver Heart Inn


It was a scorching summer’s day to start another of my little road trips.  But a little AC and some tunes made for a very quick and pleasant drive.

I was off to Independence, MO where I would be staying at the Silver Heart Inn, owned and operated by Perry and Melanie Johnson, as well as reviewing The Crucible for the Barn Players.

I only made one miscalculation for the trip.  With only an overnight stay planned, I had to be selective in the activities I chose to do.  I decided to visit the Truman Presidential Museum and Library and figured an hour would be enough time to get through it.

It was not enough time.

I did manage to get through Truman’s presidential years, but did not make it through the section detailing his personal life.  Rest assured, I will rectify this error if and when my travels bring me through this area again.

Truman was a very interesting President.  He was a common man who came from a period where you didn’t have to be wealthy to run for the Presidency.  He was a simple farmer who had deep ties to labor.  He wasn’t a good speaker.  He was put into power by a political machine, yet he was a incredibly honest man who vowed to get things done the right way.  Despite holding the prejudices of his time and place, Truman helped launch the Civil Rights movement after observing the horrible treatment of black people after World War II.  He made the decision to drop the atomic bomb.  Truman also had the biggest upset in political history when he was reelected to the Presidency in his own right when it was believed he would be crushed by his opponent, Thomas Dewey.  This was due to his Whistlestop Campaign where he rode a train through numerous communities to share his message, sometimes speaking at a dozen stops a day.

What I found most interesting about Truman was that he seemed to have no aspirations to be President.  It was his everyman quality (especially his ties to farming and labor) that secured his nomination for the Vice Presidency.  In reality, the Democrats were really looking for the next President as it was obvious FDR would not be long for the world.  In fact, he died shortly after he was reelected to his fourth term.

I also had great respect for Truman’s decency.  When his term of office expired, he was not a wealthy man and could have earned fat fees doing public speaking tours, but he refused to trade on the office of President.  Instead, he founded the Presidential Library which was the first in our country and I look forward to completing my tour of the museum some future day.

About 3pm, I headed to Silver Heart Inn to check in.  I pulled into the parking area, sidestepped a few chickens wandering about the property, and headed to the back door entrance where I was quickly greeted and led to my room.

I had been expecting to stay in the Roy Gamble Room, but was upgraded to the Napolian Stone Room instead.  It was one of the smaller rooms I had stayed in, but I enjoyed the rich brown of the walls, the soft and comfortable queen bed, and the gas fireplace.  I made my normal explorations and then killed a couple of hours reading Face to Face by Ellery Queen and brushing up on Silver Heart Inn’s history.

The Silver Heart Inn was built 1856 by local businessman, Napolian Stone.  The house used to be twice its original size and originally built in a T formation.  That changed when Judge George Jennings, the house’s owner in 1923 had the house split in half and moved to the same side of the street.  This was done as Jennings recognized that Noland Street (where the home is located) was becoming Independence’s main thoroughfare.  The inn, itself, was the back wing of the house.  The front wing fell into disrepair and was destroyed in the 1960s.

At 5pm, I headed off for an early dinner.  I once again dined at Corner Café, which you may remember from my trip to Liberty, MO about a year ago.

The restaurant was packed so I took advantage of my solo status to dine at the counter.  I ordered the Turkey Melt, one of the house specials, with a side of loaded French Fries.  Within five minutes of my hour, a plate of piping hot food appeared which I relished as I continued to read my novel.

Once fed, I drove to Mission, KS to enjoy another stellar production by the Barn Players.  It was one of the finest dramas I had ever watched and I could not wait to get back to the inn to start writing.  You can read the review here.

After I finished writing, I curled up in my bed for a restful night’s slumber.

When I awoke the next morning, I drew a hot bath and enjoyed a long soak before wandering downstairs in search of breakfast.

Breakfast was a rather pleasant, if quiet, affair.  I continued reading my mystery as I enjoyed a dish of yogurt, blueberries, granola, and cream for an appetizer followed by the main entrée of turkey sausage (I think) and an Eggs Benedict omelet served with goblets of water and orange juice.  After this tasty affair, I settled up my bill and headed off to worship services at St Mark’s before heading for home.

I definitely would recommend a stay at Silver Heart Inn if you find yourself in the Independence area.  It’s quiet and comfortable and you’ll get yourself a tasty meal (and some other perks offered by the inn if you’re so inclined).  You’ll just be minutes away from the Truman Museum and can’t pick up a little history if you wish.

Until the next time, happy travels.