March 28, 2006 > Urinetown
Urinetown is an off-beat Broadway play recently released for off-Broadway performances. Newark Memorial High School (NMHS) is one of the first in the nation to produce the show following this release and will be staging it until April 8. Provocative in title, fantastic in theme, the play sets out to illuminate traditional societal issues like greed, power, rich and poor in a new light. The musical scores are clearly designed for Broadway and have garnered multiple awards in 2002. The play is full of word plays, some of which necessarily focus on pee and urine.
The premise of the story is a Gotham-like city that has experienced a 20-year long drought that makes water an extremely precious commodity. To promote conservation, the government has mandated use of public, pay-per-use amenities for urination that has become a privilege that calls for a peeing fee. Operation of these amenities has been contracted to the monopoly Urine Good Company (UGC), headed by Caldwell B. Cladwell who is certainly clad well. Those who try to circumvent the peeing fee are mercilessly hunted down and sent to Urinetown from whence no one ever returns. The rich live well and the poor live in fear and those who cannot afford to pay the fee take their chances and face the consequences.
Old Man Strong is one such poor man that gets sent to Urinetown. His son Bobby Strong is distraught with this development when Caldwell's daughter Hope walks into his life. They fall in love and romance is in Hope's mind when she sings to him "Follow Your Heart." However, when the next morning brings news of a fresh hike in peeing fees, Bobby decides to follow his heart and start a revolt against the unjust fees. Caldwell is incensed and threatens to suppress the uprising. During this encounter, Bobby learns that Hope is Caldwell's daughter and decides to protect the poor by kidnapping her and going into hiding.
Eventually Bobby and Caldwell meet again in the UGC headquarters and discuss a settlement to the revolt. As Bobby was adamantly against Caldwell's greedy plan to have Hope released, he was condemned to Urinetown - now revealed as a euphemism for death. Bobby's death turns the revolt into a full revolution and the poor storm UGC headquarters sending Caldwell and his cronies to Urinetown. Hope, witnessing the cruelty of her father, joins the revolution and becomes the new leader of UGC after her father's death. She opens all amenities to all people to pee for free. Ironically, her very idealism spells doom for the community as it fosters depletion of the scant water reserves.
Newark Memorial High School has chosen to present the story as happening in the city of Newark. The set offers a lot of knick knacks to discern and is put together well. Familiar street signs such as the Balentine Dr, NewPark Mall as well as Newark Police Department establish the locale. Boarded up Sears, Target and Mervyn's adorn the set depicting hard times in the city. A Waste Management dumpster managed to make it onto the set as well!
Director Steven Harrington has assembled a large cast. The scenes flow nicely and transitions are smooth. Choreographer Lisa Otterstetter has put together many crisp dance moves. Musical renditions of Erin Reis as Hope, Allison Moore as Sally, and Christine DaSilva as Josephine Strong (Bobby's mother) are worth noting. Scott Holcom as Bobby Strong showed his mettle. Nick Morales nicely portrayed the well-clad tyrant Cladwell. Eddie Winsted as Officer Lockstock did a nice job switching between the roles of a narrator and the character. Mike Fornillos ably supported Eddie as the dim-witted Officer Barrel. Allison Moore as Sally worked well with Eddie Winsted and presented a good all-round performance. Kelsey O' Connell as Little Becky Two Shoes and Vincent Jones as Hot Blades Harry put on nice moves in "Snuff that Girl."
The energy and enthusiasm of the cast was consistent with a high school play. Humor is sprinkled throughout and ranges from the subtle to the slapstick. Technical aspects were generally good although some of the microphones did not have sufficient amplification at times and there were occasional dark patches on the stage, but not enough to significantly detract from the proceedings. Conductor Anselme Reis led the orchestra and provided good support. The costumes have been handled well.
Urinetown will be presented at the Newark Memorial Theatre, 39375 Cedar Blvd., in Newark on March 31, April 1, 7, & 8 at 8:00 p.m. and a Sunday matinee on April 2 at 2:00 p.m. Order your reserved-seating tickets today for $10.00 ($12.00 at the door). Seniors, NMHS students and Children under 12 - $8.00. To order your tickets or for more information, call (510) 818-4451.