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‘Urinetown’ goes to pot, and you’ll laugh the whole way

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By Sara Miller

Don’t let the title of Evergreen High School’s newest theatrical production scare you off. “Urinetown” is much more than two hours of toilet humor set to music. Well … it is toilet humor, but that is the brilliance of this wacky, high-class satire. “Urinetown” is a fast-paced comedy that goes beyond any potty humor implied by its title. In fact, the show calls into questions many of the serious issues addressing our nation today: global warming, corporate greed, political corruption. These serious themes are woven into a hilarious script and high-energy musical numbers that will have audiences laughing until they need a trip to the infamous Urinetown.

“Urinetown” was a three-time Tony Award winner in 2002. It was based on a book writted by Greg Kotis, who drew his inspiration by backpacking across Europe on a tight budget and encountering a pay-per-use toilet. Kotis, who also wrote the show’s lyrics, envisioned a world where a corrupt private company controlled all toilets to preserve water and ensure the continual flow of cash into its own pockets.

The story begins with a Narrator (Jordan Cogswell) who tells of the plight of folks in an urban setting who are experiencing a 20-year drought. As such, all private toilets were banned to conserve what remaining water existed, requiring the citizens to pay steep fees to urinate at public amenities, including Public Amenity No. 9 — the poorest and filthiest of them all. Those who cannot pay get dragged off to “Urinetown,” a mysterious place from which they never return. These urinals are run by a monopolistic, corrupt corporation, Urine Good Company, led by CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell (Asa Cogswell).

When fee hikes are enacted by Urine Good Company, Public Amenity No. 9’s operator assistant, Bobby Strong (Andy Seracuse), leads a rebellion by the poor and kidnaps Cladwell’s beautiful daughter Hope (Caroline Vickstrom). One hopes amid all the folly that the underdogs will prevail — which they do. But in true satiric fashion, at the end of the last silly song, the harsh reality of the issues remains intact.

“I love shows that make people think,” says director Fran Arniotes, a theater and Spanish teacher at Evergreen High School. “ ‘Urinetown’ is such a fun show that you could just sit back and laugh all the way through it. But underneath, there is a much more poignant message.”

Arniotes leads a cast of 41 student actors. The cast is joined by the Evergreen High orchestra under the direction of Wiley Cruse, EHS’ director of instrumental music.

“The lyrics in the show are clever and slightly inane,” Arniotes says. “These silly words are layered with this music that is elevated. It’s very complex, with four and five part harmonies. These kids are singing incredible things.”

The students are coached through the show’s challenging musical score by Charlene Hunt, vocal music teacher at Evergreen High. They are also kicking up their heels thanks to the choreography of former EHS student Wendy Westwood.  The choreography pays homage to many Broadway shows such as “Chicago,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “West Side Story.”

It isn’t often that audiences spend an entire evening analyzing some of our nation’s greatest problems through the lens of a potty. It is also uncommon that we spend two hours laughing our way through it. Thanks to the actors of Evergreen High School, we can do both.

‘Urinetown’

Presented by Evergreen High School

March 8, 9, 15, 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 10, 17 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.comor by calling 800-838-3006.

Ticket prices online are: $10 adults, $8 students and adults over 65; $5 for EHS students

If you buy your tickets at the door, ticket prices are: $12 adults; $10 students and adults over 65; $5 for EHS students.

The Evergreen High School box office opens at 6:20 p.m. for evening performances or 12:50 p.m. for matinee performances.