By: Lydia Simmons, Arts and Culture Editor
On March 11 I was able to watch the Theatre Department’s production of the musical Urinetown via livestream, and needless to say it did not disappoint. First off, the ability to view the event through a livestream is a useful way for the production to be accessible to everyone. While the pandemic is still a concern it gives the opportunity for people who would otherwise not be able to go the ability to watch. Also a factor is that the production was a hit and sold out multiple shows and so the livestream made it so those who weren’t quick enough at the jump for in person tickets were still able to enjoy the amazing talent and story.
The whole ordeal was a perfect mix of symbolism, tackling tough topics that should be talked about more, but doing so with a flare of dramatics and timely comedy. At first glance the title Urinetown could avert some people, causing them to assume the contents of the production are about going to the bathroom, but the meaning is much deeper than just that. For me this unique title did the opposite, it drew me in and got me asking questions. I was interested to know more about Urinetown and what happened there.
The concept of the production revolved around the fact that using the bathroom was not a given right to the people of this world. Something that we, in the real world, do so regularly and without a second thought, was considered a privilege in this fictional realm. All bathrooms were controlled by a private corporation that made the citizens pay in order to relieve themselves. If these people were to use the bathroom somewhere other than the designated and monitored spot and do so without paying they would be shipped off to Urinetown. Urinetown being a one way ticket to the afterlife considering the people who disobeyed the rules were killed.
For me the production was symbolic of big corporations or groups controlling and monetizing things that should be free to all people, that there are some things in life that people shouldn’t have to pay for but that are a right. The musical’s valiant hero fights against the oppression thrust upon them and the right to pee for free, pushing for “free access” for the basic human need. He was then struck down and killed for his rebellion but that didn’t stop his people from continuing to fight the good fight.
While the leader was lost the cause certainly was not and eventually the corporation was overthrown by the rebellious people. However in true realistic fashion there was no happy end for the people. Because the town had been experiencing a drought, the regulation of the water and the usage of the bathrooms had managed the flow of what little water supply they had left. This resulted in the people turning on the person who had finally won them their freedom to pee and them subsequently dying of thirst. Urinetown is emblematic of the need for structure and rules within a society but also shines light on the will of the people and their fight for their freedoms.
This story is beautifully told through the ensemble of incredibly talented performers. Some of the many strong performances included the lead characters Bobby Strong played by Aaron Kircheis and Hope Cladwell played by Emily Bartley. The character Little Sally portrayed by Dylan Cao was also a great performance, bringing some comedy to the production.
Though these talents were wearing masks every emotion was felt even through a screen. I almost forgot that they were wearing masks all together because their skills as actors and resourcefulness made what they were trying to convey so clear. And it wasn’t just one or two of the performers, it was all of them. The stunning voices of the performers captured the meaning of the songs they were singing and made for pure entertainment.
Each character was played so well and were so important to the performance, but my personal favorite was Officer Lockstock, portrayed by Ciara Neidlinger. The comedic relief that she offered while also playing one of the darker, more authoritative figures of the performance was a refreshing juxtaposition. The breaking of the fourth wall also added to the allure of the character as she narrated multiple events throughout the night.
From acting, to singing, set design, lighting and everything in between, Urinetown was a production that caught me by surprise in the best way possible. Though I knew nothing of the story before watching the performance I walked away feeling more enlightened and with much to think about when it comes to the reflections of this fictional world unto our own. Urinetown is not a performance that I will soon forget, a show that I feel leaves the audience that attends better for it.