Catch the award-winning musical ‘Urinetown
Mar 21, 2019 05:49PM
● By Clinton Haws
Jacob Shamy, as Bobby Strong, and Jessica Yergensen and Hope Cladwell (Dave Argyle/DBA Photography)
By Clinton Haws | [email protected]
You read that right, that really is the title! “Urinetown” is a story of ridiculousness, dark comedy, idiocy, love, greed and of revolution—when paying to urinate (or otherwise) is the cultural norm after a terrible drought. With water becoming as valuable as any commodity, covetousness becomes part of the ruling authority.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek Broadway musical and winner of numerous awards, including winner of three Tony Awards and three Outer Critics Circle among them.
“It is a mix of ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Les Miserables,’ ‘Chicago,’ and ‘Fiddler the Roof,’” said producer and choreographer Vicki Wartman, who has been choreographing and producing for the Riverton Arts Coucil for more than 20 years. She currently serves as the arts administrator for Riverton.
With its slick humor and plot, the play provides a refreshing take for musical theater. In many forms, it pokes fun at the stigma of the Broadway musical industry while reminding the audience of the many joys of attending live performance musicals.
The play is based on a setting in which the town's residents have to pay for the “amenity” of a public toilet after running low on water as a resource. The town’s lawmakers no longer allow private use of toilets.
“We have an incredible cast,” said Director Kim Ostler. “It is the most talented cast I have worked with.”
Accompanied by longtime RAC members, some new faces mix in for this Riverton live performance. The cast of “Urinetown” provide a show that is entertaining and full of laughs. It’s a setting that is great for a night with a date or one's family with children old enough to follow the story. It is a dinner-style theatre in which the audience can purchase dinner for intermission.
The show pulls out all the stops in this satirical musical. This lead is Bobby Strong, a public utility employee who struggles with the current system in which you have to pay to use toilets. He is haunted by the memories of watching Old So and So being taken away by the police simply because he did not have sufficient funds to use amenity No. 9 that day.
In Act 1, Bobby runs into the daughter of the richest man in Urinetown, Hope Cladwell. She is fresh out of college and returns to learn from her “Daddy,” Caldwell B Cladwell about running and eventually take over the family business.
“Listen to your heart Bobby, what does it say?” Hope literally rests on Bobby's chest listening to his heart. In a smooth turn, Hope has Bobby do the same with her heart. The scene concludes with a romantic kiss.
With that, the kicker serves as the final moment in which Bobby starts to provide a citywide revolution by providing free use of the toilets to the local residents. A series of events follows that involves honor, kidnapping, bribery and a square-off between Bobby and Cladwell.
The show provides arc words such as today and tomorrow. In a great scene that is a parody from the “Les Miserables” renowned scene “Le Revolution,” this mob and heroes of the story are focused on today. Meanwhile, Cladwell and his cronies are focused on tomorrow.
“There is not an unmemorable song in this score,” said Ostler.
Comprising solos, duets and ensemble musical numbers, the musical brings many different variables. There is interaction and acknowledgment with the audience, whether interaction is by the opening narrator or the play narrator. Other characters include Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel.
The show provides an audience surrogate through Little Sally, who asks questions the audience will find themselves wondering. Sally’s exchanges with Officer Lockstock feed the audience with tidbits of information while providing slick jabs at the authority figure.
The two leads of the play are co-led. When they perform depends on the date of the play.
“The leads are all extraordinary in their own unique way and skill set,” says Wartman.
Ostler was invited by a friend to see the National Tour in 2005.
“I knew nothing about the show and came away speechless,” she said. “I was calling everyone to buy a ticket and to go see it. It was the funniest, most intelligently stimulating show I had ever seen.”
The story continues in Act II with hysterical moments, writing genius, and joyful song and dance performances. If you enjoy musicals and have not experienced this playbill yet, it is a refreshing production that embodies sarcastic fun comedy. It includes one-liners that might stray toward political incorrectness. The spirit of the play satirizes the legal system, capitalism, corporate mismanagement, social irresponsibly and municipal politics.
“It has been a joy adding so many different styles of dance and having the opportunity to teach young minds something new,” says Ostler.
Wartman has enjoyed her work on the play.
“Being able to create choreography parodied on so many awarded and memorable musicals has been a pleasure,” says Wartman.
The cast has chemistry throughout the play. Although the premise of the show is dark in concept with police executing those who do not use bathroom facilities or pay for them, it is an uplifting and comical experience. The ruse is it is so outlandish and provides a place for many punchlines and multiple satirical parodies.
It also helps that the heroes in different aspects are partly idiotic and flawed in some respects. They bring heroism and honor to the forefront. The conclusion is also unexpected but fits the persona of the play.
- “Urinetown” is presented by the Riverton City Arts Council (RAC) from now through March 25 at the Sandra M. Lloyd Community Center.
- The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinee showing on March 23 at 2 p.m.
- It is the first time the Arts Council is doing a dinner style theatre for a production of theirs.
- Sandra N. Lloyd Community Center is located at 12830 South Redwood Road in Riverton. Tickets are available for purchase at the door or online at rivertonartscouncil.org.
- The choreography is all original by Wartman and Ostler. Ostler is also the founder of the Riverton children’s theater and serves as the artistic director for the city. Both have served on the RAC for more than 20 years.