Theater review: Alameda High School’s Urinetown
Musical with an unlikely title gets impressive production at Alameda High School
By Vicki Sedlack
Imagine having to pay to pee. Or worse, having to wait in a long line every single time nature called.
That in a nutshell is the storyline of “Urinetown,” Alameda High School’s spring musical production. Due to severe water shortages caused by a long drought, there are no private toilets anymore. Residents must take care of business at “Amenity Stations” where they pay for the privilege to pee, or pay the consequences. Of course, this soon leads to a revolt by the masses whose plight is made even worse by greedy corporate moguls and crooked politicians who work in cahoots to increase fees on nature’s calling.
“Urinetown” is a satirical musical comedy written by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis. It pretty much disses just about everything: capitalism, corporations, politicians, bureaucracy, and even social revolution: When the oppressed masses eventually succeed in their rebellion and seize control of their right to pee, sure enough the town’s limited water supply dries up, leaving everyone with far greater concerns than where their next potty break will be. And not to leave anything unscathed, “Urinetown” the musical perhaps takes some of its best shots at … you guessed it … musicals – just about every song in the play is a parody of either a musical theater genre or an actual Broadway hit song.
It’s a musical that makes you think, but does not take itself too seriously. Police Officer Lockstock, played with just the right touch of self-deprecating irony by Jeff Day, serves not only as enforcer of the potty laws but simultaneously as the story’s narrator, preventing at the get-go any possibility of preachiness in the production. His narration is aided by Little Sally, played endearingly by freshman Mackenzie Cala, who points out the sometimes silliness of the musical genre through her questions of Officer Lockstock.
Often when I watch one of our local high school productions, I am amazed by the talent. “Urinetown” is no exception. Under the direction of Frederick Chacon, the students’ performances have a maturity – and sense of irony – that belies their years. The keeper of the potties, Penelope Pennywise, played perfectly by Casey Hutchinson, reminds you of every annoying bureaucrat you ever met who follows the rules no matter how little sense they make. Nathan Brown is charming as the hero of the story, Bobby Strong, who of course falls in love with the evil corporate mogul’s daughter, Hope Cladwell, who is portrayed with just the right sort of campy innocence (and impressive voice) by Monica Lee. Alec Mathieson, is outstanding as Caldwell B. Cladwell, CEO of the megacorporation Urine Good Company (UGC), a greedy mogul who sometimes lets his inner disco king sneak out (you’ll have to see it to see what I mean).
The rest of the cast, whether character performers or the ensembles of Poor People and UGC Workers and Cops, keep the show energized with singing, dancing and comic relief throughout.
The audience is treated to a first-rate live student orchestra performance under the direction of Cary Litchford and coordination of Jesse Randell. Costuming was spot on (I’m told the cast even had to roll around in the school’s dirt softball field to help with authenticity) – a little bit of “Les Miserables” meets Corporate America.
“Urinetown” opened March 4, and performances continue this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 10-12, in Kofman Auditorium, 2200 Central Avenue. Prices are $15 for adults and $12 for students. Bathrooms are free.