Singing Satire and Sarcasm

A culmination of the collaboration of the Andover theatre department and the Andover Dance Group, the much-anticipated musical “Urinetown” creatively blended singing, dancing and acting with a hearty dash of satirical comedy in performances this past weekend. Urinetown is a production about the repercussions of a 20-year-long drought. The use of private toilets has been outlawed and all citizens are required to use expensive public amenities. The amenities are owned by a company called Urine Good Company, or the UGC, which relies on the local police for the enforcement of the toilet laws. Those who fail to pay the amenity fee are dragged away to the mysterious Urinetown. Caldwell B. Cladwell (played by Nick Anschuetz ’08) is the unethical, exploitative owner of the company, and his daughter Hope (Ellie Shepley ’08) has just begun working for his company. When the protagonist, Bobby Strong (Eli Grober ’09), a commoner blindly abiding by the law and amenity fee, meets Hope, they fall helplessly in love, and Bobby reevaluates his priorities. Soon, he initiates a revolution at Amenity 9. Urinetown was a successful mingling of incorporated sexual innuendo, spin-offs of other well-known musicals and fine-tuned exaggeration. Notably, Urinetown was the first end-of-term production ever in which Andover’s dance and theatre departments collaborated, making it an extremely pivotal performance for the school. The Andover Dance Group (ADG) and the theatre department had previously worked together, but never on such a considerable scale. It was a difficult process, as dancers rehearsed after classes during the athletic block (in addition to standard ADG practices) while the actors were taking the musical as a course during the day. The only time period the groups had to rehearse together was from 6:30-9:00 on Wednesday nights. Judith Wombwell, the co-director and choreographer of Urinetown, remarked of the collaboration, “I loved working with the students in the course… they were very enthusiastic about dancing the numbers, and I am very proud of the dancers! I knew they could handle the dance… but they all also needed to sing and act. I think when people come see the show they are probably unaware that they are looking at two separate groups which was the goal.” The musical was fastidiously thought out and executed perfectly. Aspects ranging from costume and props to performers and transitions made Urinetown very enjoyable. Overall, the musical’s numbers were jazzy and held a slightly eerie potency. The costumes were dirty and ragged, portraying the destitution of the commoners, or crisp and tailored, expressing the UGC’s prosperity. The actors were able to utilize their three main props (an elevated platform and two spiral half-staircases) to their maximum potential by moving them around the stage to add depth and create different situations. Kitten Sherrill ’10 commented, “I really liked how they used the whole theatre; there were actors in the balconies, running down the aisles… it kept your attention moving. I also loved the music because it was a student orchestra and I was impressed by how well it set the mood.” Initially, the theatre department had a tough time deciding which musical would be performed. When Urinetown was finally chosen, they had a few qualms. Wombwell said, “If I had originally known that we would be doing Urinetown, I would probably have kept the dance show a separate entity because there is not that much dance in this musical. However, it has been a spectacular experience for everyone involved including me, and in the end it worked out well.” Many members of both the theatre department and ADG were very enthusiastic about the collaboration. “I would say the best part of Urinetown was meeting all the actors because as a dancer, I wasn’t really attracted [by] the whole acting part of the program,” said Sayer Mansfield ’10. Thor Shannon ’09, who played Mr. McQueen in the musical, agreed with Mansfield. He said, “My favorite part about being in Urinetown, personally, was getting to meet so many great people whom I otherwise might not have met. As a new student, it was wonderful getting to meet such capable people who shared my interest in theater. All of the other students in the show were so talented, not to mention hilarious, which made rehearsals a blast.” Coming from two separate worlds, the Andover Dance Group and theatre department worked tirelessly to combine such specialized talent into one seamless show. Wombwell perfectly illustrated the high level of dedication, creativity and hard work the cast contributed to Urinetown: “The dancers worked in the sport time, and the actors worked in the course time and then we had Wednesday night to put everything together, plus learn all the music—quite a challenge! If you saw the show you must understand how talented the cast is to pull this off.”