The stage was set with grimy public restrooms and calls to liberation were smeared across the walls: “Let my people pee!” they demanded. This was the depiction audience members saw in the Ragan Theater Jan. 21-30 before the spectacular production of “Urinetown” began each evening.
The music began and lights focused on Officer Lockstock, played by Ames Bell, who began the show with a comical display of overexposition. According to Officer Lockstock, A 20-year drought has devastated the city and private toilet usage has been prohibited. As a result, residents must pay to use the public amenities regulated by mega-corporation Urine Good Company (UGC), and those who don’t conform are sent to the mysterious Urinetown.
The stage was soon populated with filthy locals dressed in tattered and poorly patched clothing who blew away audience members with an opening musical number that offered powerful vocals and expert choreography developed by Director Dave Tinney.
With this introduction, the crowd was primed for a night of entertainment and relevant social commentary, inherent in the play but enhanced by the skilled UVU performers.
Songs like “It’s a Privilege to Pee” clearly mocked the private regulation of basic human necessities and “Mr. Cladwell” as well as “Don’t be the Bunny” sarcastically ridiculed self-interested corporations. Meanwhile, characters like the oblivious Hope Cladwell (Kelley Coombs), daughter of UGC owner Cladwell B. Cladwell, ridicule consumer naiveté with lines like “I never realized large monopolized corporations could be such a force for good in the world.”
Soon, collective unrest developed among the subdued majority and it became clear that a revolution would soon be underway. But in the midst of rising class tension, a turbulent love develops between Hope and Bobby Strong (Chase Ramsey), an insurgent who declares that peeing is a natural right of all free people.
When Bobby is eventually apprehended by police and taken to Urinetown, it is little surprise to find out that it doesn’t actually exist and the authorities just throw dissenters off of the rooftop of UGC. Little Sally, played by Kelsey Kendall, informs the rebels-in-hiding of Bobby’s last words in an uproarious musical number titled “Tell Her I Love Her,” during which Bobby’s flattened remains reappear onstage and contribute to the rendition.
Incensed at her father’s betrayal and widespread injustice, Hope rouses the repressed people of the city and leads a revolt against her father, ultimately sending him to Urinetown.
With good intentions in their hearts but unsustainable plans, the people secured for themselves the right to pee for free, but they soon ran out of water and perished.
The final scene made their fate clear when the cast lay motionless on the ground and those previously exiled to Urinetown enter wearing toilet paper robes and toilet seat halos.
Not the typical musical, but one definitely worth seeing, “Urinetown” offered entertainment and a thought-provoking analysis of our modern economic system. The performance appealed to more than the politically malcontent, with its unanticipated hilarity throughout every scene. From the lyrics to the dialogue, the costuming to the minimal changes in set, everything evoked laughter from the audience.
The UVU theater department absolutely brought its own originality to the production. The singing was passionate, the dancing hysterical and the acting brilliant. For those who did not get the opportunity to see this excellent performance, make sure to catch their next show; it won’t disappoint.