Steamboat Springs High School performs musical ‘Urinetown’ this weekend
November 14, 2012
Steamboat Springs — In the dim house lights of the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium, students in torn clothing teased one another's hair into messy nests while director and theater teacher Jamie Oberhansly paced the stage with excited energy.
Just before their final dress rehearsal, she reminded her students that angry wasn't angry enough, that smiling wasn't smiley enough and to never to forget that "You're here to entertain," she shouted to the cheers of the entire cast of the high school musical.
Mary Willingham, the lone senior in the annual production, said the moments she'll miss the most when she graduates are the warm-ups before the shows.
"It's when you're this huge cast and despite all the drama and things that happen out of a high school production, you're a group of people who made a really amazing thing," she said.
This amazing thing just happens to be about peeing.
"Urinetown" is a contemporary Broadway musical, a Tony Award-winning political satire of a comedy with an upbeat, diverse score.
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The performances take place at 7 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday at the high school auditorium. Ticket are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $5 for children.
The eponymous location is a dystopian society in which a severe drought has led to the private takeover of public urinals. A private corporation called Urine Good Company charges residents for urinating.
If the harsh laws on urination are broken, perpetrators are sent to Urinetown.
What kind of place is Urinetown?
As Officer Lockstock says in the beginning of the show, "It's a place filled with symbolism and things like that," and you won't find out what it is until later.
The campy acting and over-the-top characterization is intentional; the show is known for its parody of other famous musicals and opera.
But that doesn't mean it isn't without heart, mainly stemming from the corny and naively optimistic leads of Hope, played by Lena Barker, and Bobby, played by Charlie Tisch.
Tisch said the musical is "overly cheesy" and shares more of a comical message than a somber one. But its occasional backpedaling into meta-theater gives it a thoughtful edge; it cycles between larger questions of morality, capitalism and ethics, and superficial, gut-busting comedy.
"I feel like it's kind of my thing," Tisch said about participating in the musical his sophomore year. He said he hopes to continue performing in every high school production he can. "I love hearing people laugh when I sing. Hopefully with me. But sometimes they laugh at me."
Director Oberhansly said the more serious themes weren't lost on the students, and the work has been studied in their AP English and biology classes this fall.
"I guess I have a twisted sense of humor," Oberhansly said about why she chose the show. "It's a political satire, we just had a huge election year, which I thought would be appropriate timing, as well as this drought that Steamboat just experienced. I figure just with the two … the timing was beautiful."
Music director Wendy Dillon said what makes "Urinetown" stand out so much is just that it's different than standard high school musicals.
"Lot of music theater productions are very typical: love and happily every after," she said. "Urinetown" "has things like kidnapping and murder and stinkiness and pee.
"Bathroom humor never goes out of style."
And to the students, the show is a win-win. The laughter and energy from the stage translates into a monumental sense of accomplishment and community off the stage.
"I think this gives one of the biggest senses of belonging out of anything," Willingham said. "I'm more proud of making a scene work than getting an 'A' in AP French. It gives me 10 times the satisfaction."
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com