By Daeg Hamilton
The Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) theater arts program on Thursday, April 5, débuted in the Tilden Arts Center their production of // Urinetown the Musical //. A three-time Tony Award winning satirical comedy written by Greg Kotis and composed by Mark Hollmann, the explores the different allegiances a government holds and delves into the politics of safety and human rights rolled up into roughly two hours of surprisingly tasteful potty humor.
Taking place in a city doomed by a terrible 20-year drought, the government and its corporate masters successfully ban the usage of private toilets to save the water supply. Citizens are forced to use “public amenities” — public bathrooms that are regulated and maintained by a corrupt and greedy corporation that overwhelmingly charges the people of the town for their one basic need: usage of the bathroom. The result is a series of events that are funny, fantastical, and over-the-top nonsensical.
The musical itself is classically composed and a pleasure to listen to, but there was skepticism at first whether or not the Cape Cod Community College production could deliver. One might have presumptions about a musical called Urinetown if one had never heard of it before.
Nevertheless, the show offers hours of proper entertainment. The moment the curtains open, the clever costume design by Amy Canaday is pronounced. The usage of dirty, ragged, tattered clothing for the poor citizens of the town is a generalization, but everybody has their own personalized style.
The audience is introduced to the musical by self-aware narrators, the local police officer Lockstock (Ari Lew) and Little Sally (Celia Cota). Both Lockstock and Little Sally offer small character commentary, contributing to exposition and to comic relief, with hilarious results.
Miss Penelope Pennywise, a cold-hearted dame who runs Public Amenity #9, is played by Caitlin Mills, who showed a particular passion for her role and brought a liveliness and depth to the world of // Urinetown //.
Bobby Strong (Blake Gronlund), who works for Pennywise in Public Amenity #9, is a young “everyman” with a bleeding heart; he voices his opposition to the abuse of the masses and he is laughed off as a hopeless dreamer with his “head in the clouds.” Gronlund’s performance is very humorous, with the main gag often coming in the form of dramatic turns and longing stares towards the audience, to which the audience reacted positively.
After Bobby’s father, Old Man Strong (Barry Lew), is arrested for public urination and sent to Urinetown, Bobby is encouraged by Hope Cladwell (Emma Fitzpatrick) in a musical number to “Follow Your Heart.” This musical interlude is where Act I shines the most in terms of comedic timing. A lot of the funniest lines are executed with the perfect balance of melodrama and satire.
“The underlying themes of the show are actually pretty serious,” says Fitzpatrick. “So when you fluff them over with this loud potty humor or big over-dramatic moments that make people laugh, it makes it that much better.”
For the duration of most of the show, there is a consistent sense of outrageous energy. Inspired by Hope, Bobby incites civil unrest among the townsfolk against the megacorporation Urine Good Company (UGC), which is responsible for hiking the amenity prices. Run by Caldwell B. Cladwell (Daniel Fontneau), UGC has worked to keep down the townspeople with the help of the government and has bribed all types of public officials. Fed up by amenity fee hikes, and humorously mad with deviance and unrest, the townspeople illegally urinate and riot.
What follows is a series of wild and unfortunate events, as it should be in any musical. The cast had a lot more energy in the Act II. Many of the dance sequences featured the ensemble in their crazed acts of defiance. In the musical numbers “Snuff the Girl” and “We’re Not Sorry,” the ensemble brought to the choreography by Hannah Carrita vibrancy and exuberance.
“It wasn’t just good dancing,” says audience member Amber Anderson. “The choreography also added to the humor.”
Overall, the experience made for a great evening, but a major drawback that was noticed by the audience was the lack of microphones. While some audience members could hear and understand all that was happening on stage perfectly fine, other audience members who are hearing impaired claimed to have a lot of trouble properly understanding the dialogue and music. According to director Holly Erin McCarthy, the lack of microphones was intentional. In addition, technical issues with the piano on that evening compounded the audio problems.
“Just before the show started,” says McCarthy, “the accompanist broke the keys to the piano. He was playing so hard that he broke some of the keys, so we had to bring in a new piano…which was a lot louder than what we’ve been rehearsing with. I think that contributed to some of the music being louder than the cast.”
A very witty, biting satire of greed and monopolized power, and the corruption and pain that both spawn, // Urinetown // is a tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred musical like you have never seen before. Bring a friend and hold onto your water when you come to see this humorous, outrageous musical at the Tilden Arts Center.
Tickets for students are $10, $20 for non-students, and $15 for senior citizens. The remaining performance dates are on Friday, April 20, at 7:30 PM and on Saturday, April 21, at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM.