There is nothing dry about “Urinetown: the Musical,” the self-aware and witty comedy that opened at Chappelear Drama Center on April 17.
“Urinetown: the Musical,” written by Greg Kotis, explores corporate control and environmental concerns with a comical, modern-day Romeo and Juliet love story.
Directed by professor of theatre Ed Kahn, the musical took place in a fictional town with a water conservation problem. Urine Good Company, a monopoly, allowed the townspeople to do their business in public restrooms with a price.
However, Bobby Strong, played by freshman TJ Galamba, along with others couldn’t afford to pay as described in the wonderful “Privilege to Pee” sung by senior Brianna J. Robinson.
A corrupt Senator Fipp, played by junior Christian Sanford, and power-hungry CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell, played by senior Ryan Haddad, work together to raise the fee to pee.
After meeting Hope, Strong’s overly optimistic love interest and daughter of the evil Cladwell, played by senior Grace Thompson, he decided to follow his heart and lead the lower-class citizens to fight for freedom.
Ohio Wesleyan’s theater, music and dance departments did justice to the self-referential musical, with clever commentary from a sassy narrator, Officer Lockstock, played by sophomore Reginald Hemphill, and an innocent rebel, Little Sally, played by junior Sarah Shulman.
The vocals of the performance were exceptional, with soulful melodies from Robinson and a deep bass from Hemphill. Thompson’s voice even mirrored Hope’s merry personality, with luminous ballads evoking the innocence of a Disney Princess; birds were about to fly onto her fingertips.
The audience could not forget they were watching a musical with the overly obvious special effects and a narrator reminding over-eager characters to not reveal any spoilers. As the plot thickened, the sarcasm of the musical always provided comic relief.
“It’s humorous, it’s very self-aware and makes fun of the conventions of musicals while also utilizing them,” said followspot operator, senior Emma Buening.
Organization was a key component within the play, with the cast and crew working since after spring break. Ensembles were choreographed to the last step, and the lights and sound programmed to each second. The collaboration and hard work that went into the designs for the set, costumes, props and every other condition for the performance were undeniably impeccable.
Though entertaining, the musical did tackle social issues such as corporate greed and excess resource consumption. With many green programs being implemented on campus, it is no wonder Kahn chose a tale of a monopolized dystopia plagued with draught and gluttony.
“Urinetown’ provided a witty and informative take on the importance of water conservation,” said freshman Evelynn Wyatt.
Not the typical story, “Urinetown: the Musical” encouraged the audience to find its balance between realism and idealism to handle obstacles.
“Ironically, it is the show’s ‘villain’ who poses the important question, ‘But what of tomorrow?’ Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from both sides, as we strive to follow our hearts,” Kahn said.
Originally published in The Transcript on April 27, 2015.