By Benjamin Lucas
Last week, our very own Union Mountebanks Theatre Club put on a production of the Tony Award-winning musical Urinetown. Performed by our classmates, the audience was treated to a post-apocalyptic evening that doubled as a devious mishmash of The Cradle Will Rock and Les Miserables, with plenty of toilet humor to boot. The play featured a variety of different genres, all of which the cast performed to thunderous applause.
Urinetown opens with one of its lead characters essentially spoiling his own play. This begins a trend of self-awareness that runs through most of its two acts, and creates another layer of irony when the rest of the cast starts to balk at its own lack of subtlety. This is a production that seems just as concerned with following the rules of conventional storytelling as it is with breaking them.
Riddled with winks and in-jokes, Urinetown paints a picture of a post-apocalypse where the water supply has all but dried up and a monolithic corporation called Urine Good Company has privatized the public urinal. Simply put, you have to pay to pee. The mastermind behind the organization is CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell, played by Lucas Rivers ’15, who plays the mustache-twirling role with wicked glee. Meanwhile, Adam Weisse ’15 appears as Bobby Strong, a no-nonsense rebel with a heart of gold who wakes up one day to realize that that, gasp, maybe the law is wrong!
Highlights include a boisterously ham-fisted Will Balta ’16 as the authoritative Officer Lockstock, who barrelled down the stage in a tornado of energy that made it even more impossible to look away.
It may have been his first musical, but he tackled it with the bursting theatricality of a seasoned veteran. He’s quick to undermine the lesson that love conquers all when the townsfolk, shortly after staging a successful rebellion and earning the “privilege to pee,” all die of thirst.
Meanwhile, Macaire Grobe ’16 plays the tyrannical manager of Public Amenity #9, Penelope Pennywise. Her character sees a surprising amount of depth when she reveals that she is the mother of Strong’s love interest, Hope (our very own Katelyn Billings ’16, who plays the Bambi-eyed Hope with innocence and grace — even as it is applied with a heavy dose of contextual irony).
Grobe has a bombastic and striking voice that complements her character’s change of heart in the play’s final moments and shines through early on with “It’s a Privilege to Pee.”
“Portraying Hope was so much fun,” remarked Billings. “She is a ridiculous character who is dumb enough to fall for her father’s act, yet strong enough to join the rebel poor in the end of the show.”
“What is Urinetown?” made effective use of the entire cast, as did “Why Did I Listen to That Man?” On the other hand, “Cop Song” and “Run, Freedom, Run” provided amusing character moments for Lockstock and Strong, respectively.
Katelyn Billings remarked, “My favorite part of working on the show was watching some of my favorite numbers from backstage; the cop song with Will Balta and Tom Arcuri ’15 was my favorite song to watch. Their dancing skills were awesome. Also watching the faces of some background actors was hilarious. Joe Hinderstein ’15 and Lizzy Magas ’15 were a great pair to watch when the action wasn’t even on them! They are wonderfully talented actors and great friends of mine.”