Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Still one more weekend to catch ‘Urinetown’

By Chelsie Field

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Michelle Alcott/Collegian

Michelle Alcott/Collegian

If a writer from The Onion and a Broadway star reproduced, the product would be “Urinetown: The Musical” by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann.

The music may be happy, but this is not a happy musical – or so forewarns the narrator. But what’s a musical without a happy ending?

Even so, University of Massachusetts freshman Adam Winograd said, “It is the best musical of all time.”

Directed by Gina Kaufmann in part with the UMass theater department, “Urinetown” is a satirical musical educating through laughter about the serious environmental and social issues relevant in today’s world.

And laugh the audience certainly did. Well-timed and delivered punch lines provided for an enjoyable experience as the characters of “Urinetown” struggle to live in a drought-plagued town where private restrooms are a luxury of the past and the only legal option is to relieve oneself in monopolized public amenities.

The musical is as thought-provoking as it is engaging. You get all the way through it, “and there’s a lovely little ‘aha!’ moment at the end,” said Kaufmann.

Melissa Ennulat, the female lead in the musical, said she hopes the audience will “take something away” from seeing the production. “There is a deeper message behind the ridiculousness of the characters.”

Ennulat, a sophomore vocal performance major, put on an outstanding performance as Hope Cladwell, the ditzy but well-intentioned daughter of the public toilet tycoon Caldwell B. Cladwell. Her vibrato carried high above the theater, commanding all attention with her pitch-perfect vocals and shining beauty.

She shared her stage presence with her leading man Sam Perry, a senior theater major and the lead of “Urinetown.” Perry plays the musical’s hero, Bobby Strong, who starts a revolution among the oppressed poor to rise against the wealthy, thus snagging the attention, and ultimately the love, of Hope. Perry has a voice made for musicals, as it rings clean and clear above ensemble numbers and is easily tailored for dramatic dialogue.

“At the end of the day, you should look at your world in a different way and question everything,” said Perry on the musical.

An actor who really stole the show was Noah Simes, a senior theater major. He played Officer Lockstock, middle man for the wealthy and narrator of the musical. Simes’ tone was spot on for his no-nonsense, satirical counter-part character. Simes especially commanded the stage with his solo in “The Cop Song.”

Simes often broke the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly – and never without a hint of mockery – such as staring right at the audience and saying, “Don’t you think people want to be told that their way of life is unsustainable?”

This deeper sense of awareness, though blanketed by satirical humor, is exactly what the cast and crew of “Urinetown” hope to get across to audiences.

Kaufmann, who collaborated with “Urinetown” co-creator and original composer Mark Hollmann, thinks her production does this effectively. The complexity of the environmental and social issues depicted in the musical, she said, is relevant to the looming issues in our world today.

What makes this a unique musical, Kaufmann said, is that “it is not as simple as it seems. It’s not necessarily clear who the good guys and bad guys are.”

No clear lines of good and bad? What kind of a musical is this?

The answer to that can only be determined once you have seen for yourself. Be sure to catch “Urinetown: The Musical” for round two this weekend, March 7-10 at 8 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]

 

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