Urinetown overflows with humor despite odd title

With a name like Urinetown, DramaTech’s latest production doesn’t exactly sound like something you’d want to run out and see. Still, despite the unappealing title, this musical is one you won’t want to miss.

Urinetown: The Musical, written by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, tells the story of a small town so afflicted by water shortages after a 20-year drought that everyone has to pay to use the toilet. Private bathrooms are forbidden, and anyone caught simply going in the bushes is arrested and taken off to “Urinetown,” a place from which they never return. All “public amenities” are owned and controlled by the town’s bathroom monopoly, Urine Good Company (UGC).

The show’s main character, Bobby Strong (played by Rob Abraham), is a young man who works for UGC. Bobby’s life is changed forever one day when his impoverished father can’t hold it in and is hauled away to Urinetown. A while later, Bobby meets the beautiful and idealistic Hope (Heidi Khalil Waldman), daughter of UGC owner Caldwell B. Cladwell (Darin McKenna). Inspired by Hope’s message, Bobby decides to listen to his heart and lead the poor townspeople in a revolution to overthrow UGC and take back the right to pee for free.

Urinetown is narrated by one of the show’s characters, Officer Lockstock (played by Joey Martineck), with help from the surprisingly insightful and witty Little Sally (Eryn Bernardy). From the very beginning Lockstock breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience and telling them outright that they are watching a musical called Urinetown.

Every so often there is a break in the action of the play and Officer Lockstock and Little Sally take the stage together to discuss the events occurring and talk about what’s going to happen. After a while this gets a little old, but Martineck and Bernardy prevent the tedium as both are very funny and good in their roles.

Lockstock also warns the audience near the beginning that Urinetown isn’t a happy musical, and he’s not kidding. The play is at heart a social commentary, and it views its message as more important than a nice ending. Still, the majority of the show is funny and mostly light-hearted, so don’t worry about being overwhelmed by some crucially important deeper message.

Like I said before, you may not be especially interested in seeing a musical about, well, pee, but this production has a lot going for it. All the cast members are extremely enthusiastic and everyone is very talented. They all work so well together that it makes for a most enjoyable show despite the subject matter.

The actors portraying the two main characters, Bobby and Hope, Rob Abraham and Heidi Waldman, have chemistry onstage and make the love story quite believable. It’s clear that Abraham and Waldman were well cast as the leads.

Other notable performances include Laura Czyzewski as Penelope Pennywise, Bobby’s supervisor and the tough UGC employee in charge of Public Ammenity IX, and Andrea Shekarabi as Becky Two-Shoes. Both actresses are quite talented singers and bring a lot of vivacity to their roles.

Singing and dancing are two key aspects that can really make or break a musical, and DramaTech’s actors really shine in both of these areas. There isn’t a bad singer in the entire show, and the choreography is great. Additionally, the costumes were quite nice and the sets were impressive.

Some of the songs in Urinetown are a little strange, particularly one number called “Don’t Be The Bunny.” Some of the best songs are “It’s a Privilege to Pee,” “Follow Your Heart,” “We’re Not Sorry,” “Tell Her I Love Her” and “I See A River.” “The Act 1 Finale” song and number is also one of the best parts of the show.

Urinetown is directed by Jeff McKerley and is playing tonight and Saturday night, and from next Thursday, April 17 to Saturday, April 19. All shows are at 8 p.m. Student tickets only cost $5. For more information check out the DramaTech website at www.dramatech.org.