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“…a title so awful… with a plot so absurd…”

IPFW presents the Fort Wayne premier of the award-winning Urinetown: the Musical

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


The levels of irony, sarcasm, and irreverence going on in Urinetown are enough to make the brain of even the most avid and astute post-modernist combust. In fact, the musical comes right out and announces its intentions and tone right from the beginning, with the character Little Sally drawing attention to the “awful title” with a plot so absurd…”

On one level, it’s a satire akin to Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, an indictment of big business and government and the degree to which they can intrude into the lives of ordinary people in the name of efficiency, urgency, and “the public good.” In Urinetown, it’s taken to the almost ridiculous extreme, to where the citizenry is being forced to pay for even the most basic bodily function…

On another level, it’s a send-up of the conventions and tropes of the Broadway musical and the predictable plots of populist entertainment, turning the traditional storylines — and outcomes — on their heads…

And on yet another level, it’s an absurdist comedy…

All of which might make Urinetown: the Musical sound too clever for it’s own good… if the whole thing weren’t so darn funny and the music wasn’t so great.

The IPFW Department of Theater’s production of Urinetown — which opens at the Williams Theater on Friday, October 2 — marks the Fort Wayne premier of this outrageous musical, winner of three Tony awards in 2001 and the 2001 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical of the Year.

The play opens with Office Lockstock (Aaron Mann) and a street urchin named Little Sally (Catherine Deventer) explaining how their city has suffered a terrible water shortage, forcing the government to outlaw (ahem) “practices which otherwise waste the precious resource.”

That means going to the bathroom. The citizens must now use public, pay-per-use amenities owned and operated by Urine Good Company You’re In Good Company), a private corporation to which the government has assigned this public utility. Offenders are sent to Urinetown, a mysterious place where many have been sent but from where no one ever returns.

The play opens at the poorest, filthiest urinal in town, where Old Man Strong (Billy Dawson) is arguing with urinal manager Penelope Pennywise (Nancy Kartholl). Strong doesn’t have the money for the peeing fee, but Pennywise refuses to let him in, explaining that “It’s A Privilege to Pee.”

Old Man Strong appeals to his son, Bobby Strong (Ethan Bair), who serves as Pennywise’s assistant, but Bobby is powerless to intervene. Old Man Strong urinates on the street and is taken off to jail by Lockstock and partner Barrel.

Meanwhile, in the offices of Urine Good Company, CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell is discussing the new fee hikes with Senator Fipp, and welcoming his beautiful daughter Hope Caldwell (Megan Meyer) to her first day of work as the company’s new copy/fax girl.

Eventually, Bobby Strong shows up to try to help his father. Hope and Blair meet, and it’s love at first sight…

Urinetown has proven to be a durable and audience-pleasing production beyond Broadway. As one reviewer wrote: “Boy-meets-girl romance, snarling evil, meaningful asides, foreshadowing, exposition, special effects – all get a thorough kidding in a relentless flow of puns, sight gags and comic mayhem. Amid all the guffaws, the creators Mark Holliman and Greg Kotis) hold forth a surprisingly heavy message — namely, that our self-indulgent, consumer crazed way of life is ultimately insupportable. But they don't even take this too seriously, so I doubt anyone else will.”

The IPFW Department of Theater presents Urinetown: the musical

Fridays, October 2 and 9 at 8 PM
Saturdays October 3 and 10 at 8 PM
Thursday, October 8 at 8 PM
Sunday, October 11 at 2 PM (Sign Language Interpreted Performance)

Williams Theatre – IPFW North Campus
2101 E. Coliseum Blvd
Fort Wayne, IN 46805

Admission for IPFW students with I.D. is free
$16/adults; $14 faculty/staff/alumni; $12 seniors and groups of 10 or more; $5 students 18 and under; $10 other college students with ID

Schatzlein Box Office in the Rhinehart Music Center
Monday – Friday, 12:30 – 6:30 pm
Box Office: 260-481-6555
TTD: 260-481-4105
Or visit www.ipfw.edu/vpa/theatre

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