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Urinetown, the musical - Woodrow Wilson High School - Washington, DC - November 12, 2016

Aubrey Winger

Loudoun Valley High School

If “you’re in town” Urinetown may be the show to see this upcoming weekend. Woodrow Wilson High School performed this mind-boggling political parody with precision and power while showing us that it’s truly a privilege to pee.

In the light of the recent election, nothing is more appropriate than the offbeat satire Urinetown. This musical grapples with issues such as mismanaged bureaucracies, the class system, and the dominance of corporations while mocking the classic Broadway production. With ten Tony nominations and three wins, Urinetown’s atypical script makes it quite a challenge to stage. However, Wilson Theatre did not hesitate to take this piece head on, resulting in an intricately crafted show with exceptional acting.

Teo Topa as Officer Lockstock showed great dexterity as he pivoted between a hardened cop and an amusing narrator. He approached every scene with the upmost gusto and dedication, entrancing the audience with his coy gestures, rockin’ dance moves, and a passionate kiss. His lighthearted banter with Little Sally (Gabby Anifantis) contrasted with the formidable subject matter. Anifantis charmed the audience with her childish demeanor and clear diction.

Joey Schulman as Hope Cladwell flitted around the stage, enchanting the audience with her innocence and her exuberant commitment to character. She played the stereotype of the doe-eyed love interest with passion throughout the show, shocking the entire audience with her character’s newfound strength (and belting ability) in “I See a River.” Her counterpart Bobby Strong (Stephen Berg) was, as the name suggests, a powerhouse. Their duet “Follow Your Heart” was full of stunning harmonies.

Penelope Pennywise (Franny Sewell) dominated “It’s a Privilege to Pee” with her impressive range and trademark sass. Likewise, Little Becky Two-Shoes (Lorin Kayla Holland) handled her solos expertly, adding genuine emotion to songs with her melodic voice. Caldwell B. Cladwell (Elliot Diner) personified every sleazy villain and corrupt businessman in theatre history.

This musical is known for its fourth wall breaks and audience integration. The lead characters all handled this beautifully in their own ways, whether it be the dastardly expressions of Penelope Pennywise or the direct address of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally. Every decision by an actor blended well into the script. The show was fast-paced and kept the audience completely spellbound.

A robust ensemble perfectly complimented the vivacity of the leads. The rebel poor did an exemplary job of creating unique characters that truly embodied a people completely disenchanted with their government. Every moment was purposeful, and the ensemble dance numbers were electrifyingly dynamic.

Although some sound issues made it difficult to understand certain characters, the overall effect of Urinetown was tremendous. Following your heart may be difficult sometimes, but it’s clear that the hearts of this cast were pointed in the right direction.

Maggie Klein

Oakton High School

If ‘urine’ town to see Woodrow Wilson’s production of Urinetown the Musical, then ‘urine’ for a #1 show! Flush with bathroom jokes and political commentary alike, this satirical comedy had the audience peeing themselves with laughter.

With music by Mark Hollmann and book by Greg Kotis, the show is a clever jab at corporations, populism, and the form of the Broadway musical itself. After encountering a pay-per-use toilet while traveling in Europe, Kotis was inspired to write Urinetown, a story of love, corruption, and the “privilege to pee” in a dystopian society where the megacorporation UGC (Urine Good Company) enforces harsh public bathroom laws in the face of a terrible drought. It took some time before any company would agree to produce such an outrageous show, but after opening in 2001, Urinetown went on to be nominated for ten Tony’s and win three.

Playing Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell—two of the “100 Greatest Roles in Musical Theatre” according to New York Theatre Monthly—Stephen Berg and Joey Schulman did the iconic roles justice. As the dashing rebel hero, Berg displayed a strong character arc and the vocals to match. His alluring voice was shown off in “Run Freedom, Run!” and blended beautifully with Schulman’s, making their “Follow Your Heart” duet especially memorable. Schulman’s breathtaking vocals shined in “I See a River,” and the pair’s chemistry throughout the show felt natural and believable. Schulman perfectly embodied the naivety and optimism of Hope, the daughter of the corrupt and comical head of UGC Mr. Cladwell (Elliot Diner). As her character developed and took charge of the rebels, Schulman demonstrated an impressive emotional range and engaging, animated facial expressions even when gagged and tied.

Officer Lockstock (Teo Topa) was another perfectly executed role; as the policeman enforcing UGC’s strict laws and the narrator of the show, Topa’s strong, captivating presence and impeccable comedic timing were responsible for many of the audience laughs. Definitive physicality and pacing enhanced the already hilarious repartee between Lockstock and the amusing Officer Barrel (William Wright), and made the fourth wall breaks with Little Sally (Gabby Anifantis) even more funny and poignant. Anifantis was incredibly convincing and dependable as the young, wily street urchin because of her consistently strong diction and physicality choices that allowed her to fully embody the character. Also strong was Franny Sewell as Penelope Pennywise, who exhibited powerful vocals and a commitment to her layered character.

Perhaps most impressive of all was the consistently high energy and cohesion of the ensemble. In both the poor and rich ensembles, every member had a fully developed and individualized character and was engaged in the show. Motivated performers and tight choreography kept up the lively pace of the show and prevented busy numbers like “I See a River” and “Finale” from becoming too overcrowded. Standouts from the group of rebels included Little Becky Two-Shoes (Lorin Kayla Holland) and Hot Blades Harry (Diego Ortiz), both of whose powerful vocals and humorous character choices were evident in “Snuff That Girl.”

The liveliness of the ensemble was created in part by the distinctive costuming choices. Vibrant colors, vintage hairstyles, and purposeful mannerisms helped distinguish the rich corporate figures from the dull colors and dirty rags of the wild, rebellious poor. Clever staging utilized the set so that the powerful rich were literally above the poor masses, and smooth scene transitions seamlessly moved between the public bathroom and corporate office.

An uproariously funny show with surprisingly deep themes, Woodrow Wilson’s production of Urinetown left audiences with full hearts, full minds, and full bladders.


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