"Urinetown" opens IU Theatre season


Cast members pose at the end of a song in IU Theatre's production of "Urinetown." The musical will run in the Wells-Metz Theatre Sept. 22, 23 and 26-29 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Marlie Bruns

 Restrooms and revolution were the focus of IU Theatre’s production of “Urinetown.”

“Urinetown” opened IU Theatre’s 2017-18 season and ran Sept. 22 to Sept. 30 at the Wells-Metz Theatre.

Set in a dystopian world where a drought has burdened civilization, the story follows a group of lower-class citizens fighting back against a corporation’s tax on the right to use the restroom.

“It focuses on privilege,” director and choreographer Kenneth Roberson said.“You have these characters that are called the rich and the poor, which is an age-old thing. It’s about power, the autocrat, the dangers of one person having so much power.”

Though “Urinetown” deals with serious themes, the show is filled with meta-references and irony. 

When the antagonist, Mr. Caldwell, spoke with his emotionally conflicted daughter, he asked, “Did I send you to the most expensive university in the world to feel conflicted or to learn how to manipulate great masses of people?”

Later, when a character asked what Urinetown was like, another character responded: “I can't just blurt it out, like, ‘There is no Urinetown! We just kill people!”

The show rested heavily on teasing theater for its dramatic nature and symbolic lyricism. In “Look at the Sky,” the characters sang, “There’s a heart in the sky/There just is, don’t ask why.”

Despite the self-referential meta-humor and irony, the themes of privilege, class and revolution in “Urinetown” were just as prominent.

“It’s super funny,” said Janie Johnson, the actress playing Hope. “Or you could call it a tragedy. It depends on which lens you’re looking through.”

The show’s numbers vary in style. Songs such as “Look at the Sky” and “Mr. Cladwell” are classic Broadway styles of song and dance, but the show presents these in a mocking, overly dramatic way. Other songs incorporate styles of Russian folk and southern church revival.

“Some of them are jazzy,” Johnson said. “There’s even a patter song. Then there’s more like legit choral type of numbers. It definitely parodies a lot of other musicals, takes its own spin on it.”

Johnson said the musical was very in-your-face.

“The goal is for people to be entertained, and also for our students to have a good learning experience, a chance to exercise their talents,” Roberson said.

The cast and crew began preparation for the show in the spring semester. The members came together and worked since the beginning of the semester to produce the show.

“My main goal is to really engross myself in the story and tell it as well as we can together,” Johnson said.

Next in IU Theatre’s 2017-18 season is “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov. It premieres Oct. 13, and tickets start at $10 for students.

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