Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep

November 22, 2019

 

THE EDWARDIAN PLAYERS PRESENT "URINETOWN," A WITTY MUSICAL COMEDY 

 

For this year's fall play, the Edwardian Players present "Urinetown," a show that brings fresh perspective about society and government to the table through hilarious comedy and satire.  Staged in a Gotham-style city, a terrible water shortage brought on by a 20-year drought has left the city's inhabitants to adhere to a government-enforced ban on private toilets while charging admission to use public facilities.  Amid the chaos, a hero steps up to rebel and leads a revolution.  Mr. Robert Burns, Director of Performing Arts, acknowledges how "Urinetown" is a contemporary satirical allegory similar in style to "The Threepenny Opera," a 1928 German play with music by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.  Both shows overplay the relationship between capitalism and the poor and conclude with surprises that question everything that came before.  "Unlike most of our shows, 'Urinetown' is played in an exaggerated and broad style," says Mr. Burns.  "At times the characters are keenly aware of the audience's presence, normally not an occurrence in musical theater.  The show's premise is implausible, and it's clear that even the creators never expected audiences to buy-in, except for the fact that it's musical theater and actors can break out in song for no apparent reason." 

 

Since the musical is set in a dystopian future, artistic liberty is limitless when it comes to costume and set design.  "Considering the language and musical styles in 'Urinetown,' I designed the look of the show to be how people from the 1940's thought the people of the future would dress.  The clothing styles go anywhere from the Zigfield Follies dresses of the 1920's to mismatched 1990's grunge," says Mrs. Lisa Hirzel, Vocal Director and Costumer for the Edwardian Players.  "The set has a cold and sparse look to it, but all that can be changed with lighting," says Mr. John Goers '78, Associate VP of  Buildings and Grounds.  "We purchased new LED lighting fixtures that make a huge difference and provide more lighting choices for us than before.  We've designed scenery that's able to 'take' color - lots of greys and lighter tones that make the set a perfect blank canvas.  Color equals mood and, under the hands of Mr. Burns and Events Assistant Mr. Corey Farr '12, they can change the entire feel of a scene at the touch of a button."  Mr. Goers notes that this is the first time St. Ed's has ever designed and built a multi-level set of this size.  With a 10' tall bridge and 13' walls, the set of "Urinetown" is a testament to the growth and skill level of the dedicated set construction crew.  "Under the direction of Matt O'Konowitz '01, this crew has done an amazing job creating a great backdrop for our cast," says Mr. Goers.  "We never like to repeat a set design, so each show is a challenge to build an effective set that is safe and pleasing to the eye.  Our props crew, led by Campus Minister Ms Cari White and Mr. Jim Wallenhorst '74, also lend so much to the show and have done a great job creating new props this year and Mrs. Hirzel's costumes really complete the visual picture of the show." 

 

In addition to its witty humor, "Urinetown" takes an unconventional approach by allowing characters to directly speak to the audience, breaking a key rule in theater formality.  "The fourth wall is constantly broken in this show.  Two of the characters narrate the show directly to the audience while also living in the moment.  They talk about being in the show, acknowledge how terrible the title of the show is, and more things like that," says Mrs. Hirzel.  "Having seen many versions of this show and having also starred in it, I can assure you that audiences will not know what to expect.  The truth is, it's a hilarious satire and is extremely entertaining.  The jokes are funny and the music is exciting.  Most people leave 'Urinetown' saying, 'I had no idea I was going to like it so much.'" 

 

"I find every aspect of the show fascinating, but especially the intelligent and witty dialogue and lyrics.  On the surface, the show is ridiculous nonsense, but beneath that fluff is ingenious, thought-provoking commentary on contemporary society," says Mr. Burns.  "As the director, I've been challenged to balance the amount of zaniness and gravity in the show.  As in all our shows at St. Ed's, the singing voices in this show are extraordinary, but this cast is full of incredibly creative and thoughtful actors.  They are enthusiastic about the material and are incredibly supportive of each other.  It's best to come into this show without much understanding of what it's about.  The show is never preachy, but nevertheless, it encourages you to ponder the world in which we live, providing more questions than answers."

 

"Urinetown" is a musical comedy you won't want to miss!  Performances run tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, November 24 at 3:00 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at the door prior to each performance.  Break a leg to the cast and crew of "Urinetown!"

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