A Musical Dystopia

MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA "Urinetown" impresses audience with a combination of musical and acting talent, with thematic elements that surprise.

“Urinetown” impresses audience with a combination of musical and acting talent, with thematic elements that surprise.

Imagine a post-apocalyptic world where the earth has all but run out of water. Society is split between the wealthy elite in power and the poor population that must abide by their exploitative rules. Mask & Bauble’s new musical “Urinetown” depicts this future society, but as its name suggests, there’s a new spin on this classic dystopian problem. In a comedic attempt to conserve what is left of the water supply, the elite charge ridiculous prices to use the restroom at the expense of the poor. It is this humorous twist that drives the plot and makes this musical a decisive success.

The musical perfectly captivates the audience with its outlandish storyline, its catchy songs and its hilarious character relationships. Yet beneath this comedy it strikes a deeper note, embedding into itself subtle commentary on the status of the contemporary world. It addresses some of the key environmental issues that the world is facing today, and the abnormally upbeat tempo only accentuates this message.
Like any good musical worth the price of admission, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and director Sean Craig (COL ’16) implements such smooth intricacies that sometimes you find yourself asking whether or not characters intentionally behaved the way they did in any given movement.

The answer is yes. The characters do a fantastic job of making the viewer question everything he or she sees, subverting the believable actions of theater performers that one normally takes for granted.
Having a musical in which the characters, or at least some of them, are aware that they are, in fact, putting on a musical allows for an audience-character interaction that is seldom experienced. With a cast that knows what the elements of a stereotypical musical are, it takes away all preconceptions one might have about the fate of the plot and leaves you in suspense all the way to the final number.

“Our show deals in the dirty business of deconstructing itself before the audience’s very eyes,” Craig commented.

“Urinetown is hilarious, it’s sweet and it takes turns that no one expects. There’s something different to enjoy with every scene, whether it’s the choreography, the lighting, or a subtly hysterical line,” producer Emily Grau (COL ’16) said.

The show certainly wouldn’t be what it is without the incredible vocal talent of the characters and diverse genres of music they draw from. Theater groups will often go to the a cappella groups on campus to find talent for these musicals. “Urinetown” is no different, and its fast-paced, melodious numbers will blow you away.

When asked about his favorite moment in the show, Matt Beshke, (COL ’18) who plays Bobby Strong, remarked, “Personally, I love jamming out to my song, ‘Run, Freedom, Run!’ It’s such an energetic number to be a part of, and I even get to experiment with some gospel-inspired singing and conducting, which was a blast to say the least.”

His portrayal of Bobby Strong is complimented by his love interest Hope Cladwell, who is played by Reagan Lawn (COL ’16). Her performance of an affluent, sheltered rich girl that is experiencing the world outside of her pricey classroom education for the first time is a journey that sheds light on the divide between socioeconomic classes.  Her vocal solos seem to highlight the live orchestra, which truly give the entire musical a new dimension of life.

“[‘Urinetown’ taught me] that bathroom jokes never get old, that not everything has to have a happy ending, and that even if an ending doesn’t exactly turn out how you’d like, it probably more accurately reflects the nature of the situation,” said Colton Wade (SFS ’18), who plays Officer Livestock. Indeed, the classic jokes never fall flat, and the message that ideal happy endings are not always possible is made acceptable and comfortable through the musical’s satirical nature.

Wade’s performance is what initially bridges the gap between the audience and the musical and continues to break down the fourth wall throughout the plot. By the end of the show, the audience feels as if they too are a character that has been to Urinetown and left incredibly entertained.

Financial strain, corporate greed, the camaraderie of societal suffering, police brutality, the battle between good and evil, right and wrong — whether it is a classic theme that has seemed to transcend the performing arts for centuries, or a social issue that we seem to be at the crux of in this day and age, “Urinetown” has it.

If you like musicals, laughing, and singing and want to interact with a performance in a unique and creative way, check out “Urinetown.” It is a happy, heartfelt journey ingeniously pulled off by its production staff, complete with a cast of incredibly talented actors that are guaranteed to leave you wide-eyed, elated and introspective as you exit the theater.

“Urinetown” will be in town from tonight at 8 p.m. to Sat. April 18th at Poulton Hall.

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