Edge

‘Urinetown’ flushes down conventions, Ring Theatre satirizes musicals

Ryan Phillips and Valerie Roche, participate with fellow cast mates in the first dress rehearsal of the play "Urinetown" on Saturday night in the Ring Theater. Lindsay Brown//Photo Editor

This season’s opener at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre already has the student cast singing praise for its self-depreciating parody, sharp commentary and… toilet humor.

“Urinetown,” the highly-acclaimed winner of the 2002 “Best Original Score” Tony Award, is the newest production by the Department of Theatre Arts.

A satire on rose-colored musicals, the plot is set in a futuristic totalitarian society where water shortages have led the government to impose taxes on citizens for using the bathroom. Fed up with a hike on the fee to pee, citizens start a revolution.

Lynn McNutt, director of the musical, said that the popularity of “Urinetown” is a bit of an accident, as its writers, Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, originally intended to make more of a shock than a success.

“It’s kind of like a ‘South Park’ episode, where they were like, ‘Let’s write a musical that we know nobody’s going to produce because we kind of went there…’” McNutt said.

The performance, which showcases characters using the bathroom on stage and numerous shameless puns (an emboldening anthem for the “free pee” society called “I See a River,” for example), isn’t all just one big coarse joke on sanguine musicals, however. There is meaning behind the indecency.

Evoking some of the conservationist philosophy of Thomas Malthus, “Urinetown” also implicitly prods at the way societies waste resources by confounding audience expectations of a fabulous ending.

“It’s a really fun way to look at a serious issue,” said junior Elizabeth Nestlerode, a BFA major who plays Soupy Sue, a poor citizen who joins the rebellion. “You don’t really think about the environmental message until the end, where you’re like, ‘Oh wait, that’s actually true.’”

The actors, who have been rehearsing since the first day of classes, seem to appreciate both the irreverent comedy and social satire.

“It blatantly makes fun of any theater that’s pretentious,” Nestlerode said. “If you hate musicals, you’ll probably still like this show.“

Two of the more recognizable musicals “Urinetown” indelicately references are “Les Misérables” and “West Side Story.”

“The writers really wrote each song with the flavor of another musical in mind,” McNutt said.

Junior Ryan Phillips, a BFA major who plays Bobby Strong, the inciter of the pee-free revolution said, “It’s not a happy musical, but that’s the point, and I think people get it; it’s just impossible to not have fun.”

The musical received positive reviews when it premiered on Broadway in September 2001. Some critics even suggested that it may have won the Tony for best musical if not for its off-color title.

“A lot of times when [the college]generation thinks of musicals, they think of Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma’ and all that stuff my parents like,” McNutt said. “[‘Urinetown’] plays to the irreverent humor this generation likes.”

Urinetown opens in the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Wednesday and runs until Oct. 9 with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.

David Sargent may be contacted at dsargent@themiamihurricane.com.

IF YOU GO:

What: “Urinetown”
When: Sept. 29- Oct. 9
Where: Jerry Herman Ring Theatre

For ticket prices log onto www.as.miami.edu/theatrearts/ring

September 26, 2010

Reporters

David Sargent

Contributing EDGE Writer


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • Error

The Miami Hurricanes, still waiting for a starting quarterback to be named, are in the top 25 again. ...

Happy first day of school for everyone out there, including the University of Miami students. We jus ...

With the University of Miami season opener closing in, the next starting quarterback has yet to be n ...

The second fall scrimmage, closed to the media and public, is over. University of Miami coach Mark R ...

1. DOLPHINS: Fins any good? 'Dress rehearsal' may tell: Opening win, then lopsided loss. W ...

UM’s new chief academic officer holds some 40 patents, and in 2017 was inducted into the National Ac ...

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf ...

María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, a world-renowned economist and former ambassador, fills a new role for ...

Through the U Dreamers Grant, DACA students find essential support as they pursue their college degr ...

UM students talk about their internships up north in a city that never sleeps. ...

RSS Error: A feed could not be found at http://www.hurricanesports.com/. A feed with an invalid mime type may fall victim to this error, or SimplePie was unable to auto-discover it.. Use force_feed() if you are certain this URL is a real feed.

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.