Urinetown: The Musical

Emma Swanson, News Editor

If you saw Burroughs’ winter production Urinetown, you were likely as shocked as I was. The John Burroughs School production, directed by Speech and Theater teacher Drew Battles, was full of twists and turns that no one could have predicted. Although it was a lengthy play—around two and a half hours—I was constantly at the edge of my seat wondering what could possibly come next.

The musical, narrated by a hilarious Officer Lockstock (Nick Kime ‘18) and intelligent Little Sally (Libby Hizar ‘20), tells the story of a revolution. The setting is a time in which a big corporation taxes public toilets. At its center, it follows the love story between the leader of the rebels, Bobby Strong (Evan Williams ‘18) and Hope Cladwell (Allison Johnston ‘20). Strong’s father, Joseph (Collin Smith ‘18), is sent to the infamous, unseen “Urinetown” after refusing to pay the toilet tax, while Cladwell’s father, Caldwell B. Cladwell (Hasani Skinner ‘18), oversees the toilet taxes.

Originally written by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, Urinetown intends to be a satirical musical comedy that addresses the power held by big corporations, capitalism, and the problems within municipal politics. After encountering a pay toilet while traveling as a student in Europe, Kotis started writing Urinetown, a project that close friend Hollmann quickly joined. The two struggled to gain a foothold on Broadway because of the controversy and brutal realism that surrounded it. Eventually, the Neo-Futurists, an experimental theater group from Chicago, agreed to produce it in 1999. After a long journey, the show was finally transferred to Broadway in September 2001. Urinetown won three Tony Awards, for Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical. It’s unexpected and sometimes scary storyline was a hit on Broadway.

In the Burroughs production, the ensemble was perfectly harmonized, as seen in the opening and the “Run Freedom Run” scene, and the dancing was quite impressive. Not to mention, Dahlia Haddad ‘18 shined in her role as Penelope Pennywise, a strict, rule-following woman who reveals a big secret towards the end of the play. Haddad put on an amazing, hilarious, and jaw-dropping performance that never failed to make me (and the audience around me) crack up. Urinetown, with the help of the wonderful cast and crew, was an outstanding production, which in my opinion, was unlike any other previous show.

Battles did not choose this musical simply because it was funny. When asked about his reasoning, he said that he “love[s] this musical because it’s political, but doesn’t hit the audience over the head with it.” Battles admires the way the play satirizes capitalism, socioeconomic status, populism, bureaucracy, corporations, and “even satirizes musical theater itself.” The memorable characters and ability to start a conversation in our community is just one of the reasons Battles decided to choose Urinetown