The Odd Couple are as odd as ever and Urinetown, The Musical, shines a light on water conservation!

The Odd Couple is back with a roaring success in the Willows Theater!

“It’s Back!” The Willows Theatre Company in Concord is currently presenting a delightfully familiar and at the same time totally refreshing production of Neil Simon’s classic comedy, The Odd Couple. Is it remotely possible that there is anyone within the sound of my voice or the clacking of my computer keys who does not know full well the story of Oscar Madison (the slovenly sportswriter) and Felix Unger (the epitome of Mr. Clean), the two most incompatible men in the universe to try to co-habit in an eight room apartment on Riverside drive in New York?

In 1965, Walter Matheau (as messy Madison) and Art Carney (as neat and clean freak Unger) broke new comedy ground in “The Odd Couple”, barely in the shadow of Neil Simon’s first Broadway hit, Barefoot in the Park a few months earlier. Simon took his audiences from newly wedded bliss and happiness many stories above a park, to near murder in Manhattan as two men tried to keep from killing each other because of their totally opposite life styles and personal habits.

The play set loose a whirlwind of opportunities for people to experience this masterpiece, in live theater, in the movies and then - - the TV series was born. The series even spawned a cartoon version in 1975 entitled The Oddball Couple featuring a cat named Spiffy and a messy dog, named Fleabag! Jack Lemmon (Felix) and Walter Matheau (Madison) starred in the movie version followed by Tony Randall (Felix) and Jack Klugman (Madison) who morphed into the TV series leads. And for years after, “The Odd Couple” ruled and played almost continuously every day for years somewhere in this country. There is even a female version!
Well - - - as I said earlier, “It’s Back!”

This cast does not try to mimic earlier portrayals well known in the industry; they simply try to live up to their own personal definition of how these men would act and react, if thrown into this particular situation. Director Richard Elliott has garnered the talents of Cassidy Brown (as the frenetic Felix Unger) and Christopher Hayes (as house-trasher Oscar Madison), in addition to a terrific supporting cast of actors to play the remaining characters. Warren McClure (portrays card playing buddy, Speed), Ed Meehan (Accountant Roy), Bret Sharenow (poker player Vinnie) and John Sousa (Murray the Cop) all deliver very memorable performances as concerned friends to both Felix and Oscar. The two British sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon are played superbly by Diana Boos and Emily Jordan.

I have seldom seen a production of this show that has been poorly done. The characters are defined so perfectly by Simon’s clever writing that it never seems to grow old. On one occasion, Felix is described as follows: “Felix is so nervous, wears a seatbelt in the drive-in-movie.” On another occasion, Felix dishes it out as he chastises Oscar (who knows little or nothing about the world of cooking, and who miss-identifies the cooking utensil Felix is waving about, a spoon), “You dumb ignoramus, it’s a ladle!”

If you have not seen “The Odd Couple”, then by all means, this is a very well conceived and directed production that will leave you laughing, chasing any and all negative thoughts for at least one lighthearted evening.

“The Odd Couple” plays Wednesdays, Thursdays, and one Sunday evening (September 10th) at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinee performances on Wednesday afternoons at 3:30 p.m., Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m., and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m., now through September 24th. Call (925) 798-1300 for ticket and reservation information or visit the Willows web-site at . The Willows Theater is located at 1975 Diamond Blvd. in Concord, in the Willows Shopping Center, next to CompUSA and REI sporting goods stores. Tickets range in cost between $30 to #35 each, with discounts for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more.

Take heart, there is light at the end of the Urinal!

“Urinetown, The Musical” - - “What kind of musical is that?” is probably the most often heard phrase or question when one hears or sees advertising for this Tony Award winning musical, now playing in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. The Contra Costa Musical Theater has delivered one of the truly most innovative comedy musicals bent on punishing the politicians and corporations that are taking more control of our lives and more money out of our pockets every day.

The success of URINETOWN seems as unlikely as the show’s title. One of the few truly original musicals not based on existing source material, the show first premiered at the Fringe Festival in 1999. The tongue-in-cheek, outrageous story of a town suffering from years of drought, in which the water supply is controlled by a greedy corporation, where people no longer are allowed private toilets and have to pay for “the privilege to pee”, was an instant hit with Fringe audiences. The Fringe audiences also applauded the show’s hilarious references to classic musicals such as, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera and all the movies or cartoons about adorable little rabbits that we have known and loved.

Word of mouth spread quickly, and the show was picked up for an Off-Broadway run in 2001. The reviews were wildly enthusiastic, and the show was transferred to Broadway’s Henry Miller Theater where it opened on September 20, 2001. It was the first Fringe Festival show to ever achieve that feat.

Like a cartoon characters set in the middle of a “big brother” run American city, the little guys rebel against corporate powers and corrupt police and the colonels of the public urinals, to right the wrongs and restore equilibrium and sanity to a town unable to “pee without paying”. If you remember the movie with Robin Williams where he portrayed “Popeye”, where real actors played the classic cartoon characters as though they were cartoon characters, this musical reminds me of a living cartoon, just as outrageous, just as completely over the top, but an absolute joy to experience.

URINETOWN was nominated for an impressive 10 Tony Awards, winning for Best Book, Score, and direction. It also won the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical.

Director Jeff Collister and his collective staff and contributors have pulled off a production that I feel is even better than the national touring company production that my wife and I saw a few years ago.

The cast just could not be better, with Nephi Speer playing Bobby Strong, the young assistant in charge of Public Amenity Station #9 (a public urinal in the poorer part of town) who leads the “Pee Free Revolution” against the “black immoral money schemes”. When I first encountered Nephi in the production of “Moon River” at CTA (California Theater Arts in Walnut Creek), I suggested strongly that this was a new rising star that you should take time to experience. I repeat that suggestion again.

The entire cast is superlative with Rena Wilson playing Hope Cladwell, the “heartwarming” daughter of the bad guy, Caldwell B. Cladwell, the president of UGC (Urine Good Company), the massive corporation that seems to control everybody’s bladder matters. Officer Lockstock (played by Steve Rhyne) who is not only the head cop, but also the Narrator as well. Second police officer “Barrell” is played delightfully by Joel Roster. The two together are often referred to as “Lockstock and Barrell”, a little play on words.

Absolutely delightful, Danielle Levin plays “Little Sally, the show’s sweetheart childlike character (ya just gotta lover ‘er), she is so full of life and comic satire. Ron Pickett plays several characters and has to be one of the funniest supporting actors in the show. Scott Phillips plays the sinister and dastardly evil Caldwell B. Cladwell with charm and great skill. Anne Buelteman, veteran actress who has returned to her native Bay Area after years touring with Les Miserables, takes on the role of Miss Pennywise, perfectly. I could go on and on about every single actor in the show, as each one contributed in superlative fashion. This is a show that you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT MISS!

Take heart, there is light at the end of the Urinal! As officer Lockstock reminds us several times, this is not a “Happy Musical” but it is definitely original, clever, and highly entertaining.

This show plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with a Saturday matinee on September 23rd at 2 p.m., and regular Sunday matinees at 2 pm, through the close of performances on September 29th. Call (925) 943-SHOW (7469) for ticket and reservation information or visit online at for more detailed information. The Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts is located at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. There is a large public parking facility adjacent to the theater.