“Urinetown” Is a Success


Christina Lee, Section editor

“Urinetown” is as punchy as its title promises. Plunged into the satirical world of a corrupt dystopia, Vista del Lago High School’s spring musical packs in humor, romance, and social commentary into two unforgettable hours.

Inspired by his experience with pay toilets during a trip to Paris, writer Greg Kotis stabs at the faults of capitalism and environmental sustainability in his 2001 production. Vista’s drama team translated the Broadway musical into the space of their black box theater, filling the compact room with dynamic performances from student actors and musicians.

This year’s production, directed by Steve Minow and produced by Christina Rae, drew laughs and ovations from the audience. The Vista actors succeeded in selling out all tickets for each performance and left viewers raving for days.

Contributing to the show’s success, Vista effectively filled their theater with the cheeky Tony Award-nominated music written by Mark Hollman. Under the music direction of Elicia Carlson, Vista’s band and orchestra students performed a faithful representation of Hollman’s “Urinetown” soundtrack, complementing the action onstage with their musical prowess.

However, despite the bouncy rhythms paired with snarky lyrics, the musical has more to say than just comedy and romance. “This musical is absolutely warning the audience through the use of satire and comedy about our way of life,” said Rae. “When Little Sally tells Officer Lockstock that she doesn’t think very many people will come to see this musical, his response is: ‘Why, Little Sally? You don’t think people like to be told that their way of life is unsustainable?’ The message, while veiled through hilarious dialogue and upbeat music, is strong and important.”

To first-time viewers of musical, the title can seem jarring. “While [Carlson and I] are both huge fans of the show and know how great it is, we are well aware that the title is off-putting,” said Rae. “There’s a reason that the writers mention the title in the opening conversation between Officer Lockstock and Little Sally—it’s a horrible title, but an excellent show.”

Rae mentioned that the proposal to put on “Urinetown” was not met with all-around enthusiasm. “Unfortunately as often happens in our world, some made immediate snap judgments about the show based solely on the title. I heard concerns that we were doing a show about pee and bathroom usage. Obviously, this is in no way what the show is about,” she said.

Senior Lance Padilla, who played the revolutionary romanticist Bobby Strong, reflected on his last high school experience in a drama production. “It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Padilla. “I’ve learned a lot and met so many wonderful people over the past few years, and it can be difficult to let go. Every time I get onstage for ‘Urinetown’, I try to perform with complete abandon and savor every moment.”

Similarly, senior Mina Basmaci, who played the squeaky-voiced but refreshingly logical Little Sally, viewed “Urinetown” as a personally special musical. “This production definitely had a lot of firsts, but it also had a lot of lasts, which made it overall very, very special and significant to me,” said Basmaci. “It was the first musical I’ve been involved in, my first lead role, my first experience singing somewhere other than my shower. But also, since I’m a senior, it was obviously my last production here at Vista.”

Basmaci compared her “Urinetown” experience to her previous theater experience in “Twelve Angry Men.” “Last fall, I was also involved in the play, and if I were to compare and contrast the two, ‘Urinetown’ stands out because the cast is just enormous. I think we’re just about 40 people, so compared to the last production, which had a cast of 12, everything is different in that sense. I also got to play around with comedic timing and satire this time around, too. Overall, it’s such a quirky musical and everything about it stands out and is special,” she said.

As hyperbolic and humorous as the musical seems, Rae pointed out the relevance of its underlying societal messages. “Our director for this piece, Steve Minow, was constantly reminding the cast to ‘raise the stakes.’ Everything is life or death for a character on stage, and in the case of this musical, that could not be more real,” she said. “Currently in Cape Town, South Africa, there is a devastating water shortage due to a three-year drought. Water is rationed, much as it is in ‘Urinetown,’ and citizens are attempting to prepare as best they can for what they’re calling ‘Day Zero’—the day the taps run completely dry. Sure, the title is crap—pun intended—but this musical absolutely is a warning to us about our way of life and the importance of conservation.”