Students at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School (LTCHS) are gearing up to present Urinetown (The Musical) from March 22nd through to the 30th in the school’s Studio A.
Described as a ‘sharp and hilarious satire’, Urinetown tells the story of an uprising against an oppressive, classist capitalist regime.
All the while, the production is also described as a love letter to all things musical theatre. There’s a bit of everything packed into a fast-paced, colourful show from laughter and romance to intrigue, tears, murder and ‘jazz hands’.
“Urinetown began as a Fringe show in New York and then eventually was picked up for off-Broadway and then ended up on Broadway,” explains Tara Koett, the show’s director and an instructor at LTCHS.
First hitting the stage in 2001, the successful production, which was written by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, went on to win two Tony Awards as well.
“The music is just excellent and the book is so funny – it’s so biting and satirical, hilarious and quick,” she added. “It’s a show that was in the theatre community but to the general public it might not be as recognizable. But the title definitely catches attention.”
Koett also describes the production as being in the tradition of the works of Bertolt Brecht, a German theatre practitioner, playwright and poet.
“He was all about social action and political theatre,” she explained. “This show really pays homage to a couple of his shows.
“What I love about Urinetown is that it’s whip-smart, it’s so quick and it’s satirical of class oppression, capitalist greed, police brutality – all of these really heavy subjects. But then it also has all of these little tips of the hat to musical theatre tropes.
“So if someone is familiar with musical theatre, it’s like a little bit of extra icing on the cake that they will notice all the throws to other shows. But you don’t need to be well-versed in theatre or musical theatre to appreciate Urinetown,” she said. “They also reference the terrible title within the first page of the script. It’s very clever, and it’s a lot more than the title suggests.”
Koett said the show has also offered students a unique theatrical and artistic challenge.
“Last year, we were really flexing our acting muscles of naturalism, whereas this show is highly presentational. So the challenge has been how can we create these big stock characters but still honour our acting skills, chase objectives and still create believable, real people,” she explained.
“The kids have had a lot of fun with it – it was a brand new challenge of acting style. We have a lot students who have never danced or sang before, and while last year’s show (West Side Story) was really dance-heavy, this one is much more ‘vocal and acting’ heavy.
“It’s been really interesting to watch them – especially those kids who are new to theatre and new to musical theatre – take on the challenge. But they’ve had a lot of fun, and there has been lots of great play in discovering these characters and in telling this story.”
For Koett, bringing Urinetown to the stage has brought her not only a unique directing and teaching experience, but a special sense of fulfillment as well.
First off, the pace and subtlety of it have been pure magic.
“And how clever the script is. I can see why this book won a Tony Award – I feel like it’s the smartest script that I’ve gotten to work with since I directed How to Succeed in Business in 2013. It’s so clever, and I really hope people look past their apprehensions at the title and come and see the show!
“I’m interested to hear how the subject matter of political corruption, police bribery, police corruption, class oppression and the oppression of the poor – to see how these topics spur conversation when they are presented with all of these big uncomfortable smiles and great, big energetic song and dance numbers.”
Tickets are available on www.eventbrite.com.