Love musicals but occasionally think they take themselves too seriously? Does the idea that a whole crowd of people would start singing in the middle of a riot strike you as more than a bit unbelievable? Or maybe you think that many shows are too formulaic to give the audience any sort of shock or surprise? The theatre department of UAHuntsville has a cure for all of that in Urinetown: The Musical by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann.
Urinetown is a two-act musical comedy about a global water shortage. It depicts a town where people must pay to pee in public restrooms that are run by a profiteering company. The company CEO has bought off the legislature, imposed harsh laws against those who would “go in the bushes,” and steadily raised the price of admission to the amenities.
“People get tired of it,” said Marilyn West, who plays the CEO’s idealistic daughter Hope Cladwell. “There’s an uprising, with lots of singing and dancing – about pee! There’s no moment where it’s not fun.”
I know, right? That’s everyone’s reaction when I tell them what musical we’re doing. Even explaining the plot doesn’t help. “How do you write a musical about that?” people ask and truthfully, when I first came on board as stage manager, I was asking the same question.
Our co-director, Patricia Kiley, gave me a copy of the script with a preface from Greg Kotis, the play’s writer. While trying to tour Europe on the cheap, he was surprised by the pay-to-pee toilets common in cities there. He often found himself choosing between his budget and his bladder. With this experience in mind, Kotis developed the absurd and hilarious musical Urinetown.
There really is something for everyone in this show—I don’t just mean for the audience, but for the cast and crew as well. We have the full spectrum of people on board for this show. Some have been doing theatre for decades and have degrees in performance arts. Others have or are pursuing degrees in other fields and have never been onstage in their lives before now. We’re all finding our own reasons to love the show.
Parody, Puns, and Playing it Straight
Look closely and you’ll see glimpses of standards like Annie and Les Miserables being lampooned—which is rollicking good fun for all the theatre geeks in the cast. For many of us, this is our first time doing parody.
David’s advice to the actors is simple.
“You have to actually play it straight. It’s supposed to be funny for the audience, not for you. For you, this is real. If it’s not real for you, it doesn’t work.”
In rehearsal, we’re having a blast giggling at all the bathroom humor and over-the-top characters like CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell (who falls next to Snidely Whiplash on the cartoonishly evil spectrum), but there are some poignant issues being laid out for discussion.
- Depletion of natural resources
- Corporate money in politics
- Polarization of political debate
Kotis gets away with writing about all this in a very frank manner because he coats it with layers of sarcasm and goofy characters. Not to mention songs like Penelope Pennywise’s “It’s a Privilege to Pee.” Seriously, that’s the title of the song.
How Ellen Hood is able to sing it without cracking up is beyond me. These things and more are why I’m in stage management. I can giggle all I want up in the sound booth!
Come see us!
We’re having a blast putting this show together, so I know you’ll love it when you see it. For information about tickets, please contact Donna Lamp, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm at (256) 824-6871, or in Morton Hall 342 on the UAHuntsville campus. For more information about Urinetown: The Musical visit the UAHuntsville Theatre website.
AND enter to win a pair of tickets below!
Dates and Times:
March 13- 16 & 20- 23 at 7:30
March 17 and 24 at 2:30
Location: UAHuntsville Chan Auditorium
Tickets: To purchase tickets by phone call Donna Lamp, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm at (256) 824-6871, or stop by Morton Hall room 342 on the UAHuntsville campus
About the Author
Melissa “Birdie” Jones is pursuing a degree in English and Theatre at UAHuntsville. Urinetown is her sixth production, with past shows including Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” and “The Consul,” an opera by Gian-Carlo Menotti. She began her professional stage management career this summer at the Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee, NC as an assistant stage manager for their productions of Unto These Hills and Cherokee Family Reunion. When she’s not making rehearsal schedules and chasing actors with a stick, she performs with the UAHuntsville Wind Ensemble, cooks with her friends, writes, and knits.