Photos by Steven Pozz
A collaboration between the Ohio University Theater Division and School of Music, Urinetown is a musical that focusses on the themes of an unsustainable and economically-imbalanced society. In the fictional setting of Urinetown, a catastrophic drought has caused a serious water shortage. To combat the shortage, a corporation known as Urine Good Company has begun to charge citizens to use bathrooms. Realizing the inherent injustice of the system, one worker begins to form a rebellion to challenge the way things are done so that all are free to pee.
Reasons to See Urinetown
The cast of Urinetown does a laudable job fulfilling their roles. All of the major players effectively convey a large range of emotions. In addition to their acting, the performers do a wonderful job singing. Their voices, along with their impressive dance moves, bring the lyrics and energy of the various musical numbers in Urinetown to life.
Speaking of the songs in Urinetown, they are extremely catchy. Audience members will probably have some of the melodies stuck in their heads for day. But unlike other ear worms, the songs are more often than not enjoyable and animated.
The world that Urinetown is set in possesses a distinct atmosphere. In order to bring that environment to the stage, the production and lighting crews have employed some impressive techniques that are arguably as integral to the performance as the music itself is.
If for no other reason, audiences should consider going to Urinetown because it is a fun performance to watch. The theater division only produces musicals once every few years, so the production offers Ohio University students an experience they do not often have the opportunity to engage in.
Reasons to Skip Urinetown
Although it has a passionate cast and atmosphere, where the musical begins to break down is with the narrative itself. Urinetown does possess a clever premise, and there are sparks of creative and playful brilliance in the musical. Nevertheless, there are plenty of moments where the line between scathing parody and uninspired storytelling begins to blur. While trying to mock certain clichés, the musical ends up fulfilling other tired tropes to the letter.
Furthermore, there are moments where Urinetown scratches the surface of moral complexity, but it never truly explores those themes in depth. Without revealing too much, the ending of Urinetown is designed to feel somber and bleak. However, consequences are implied rather than shown, so the gravity and tragedy of the situation is never properly conveyed.
Ultimately, the musical’s biggest weakness is that it is not as clever or crafty as it would like to think. Urinetown presents itself as a well-constructed and intelligent critique of society’s unsustainable ways of life. However, it never completely delivers on its own promise of genius.
Thanks to passionate performers and an evocative atmosphere, Urinetown is a rather enjoyable musical to see. However, as entertaining as they are, the cast members cannot save the performance from an ultimately shallow story that presents itself as profound.
Performances of Urinetown take place in The Forum Theater of the RTV Building at 8 p.m. from February 17-20 and February 23-26.