Follow your heart to ‘Urinetown: The Musical’

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The University of Indianapolis theatre department’s first production of the year was the satirical comedy musical “Urinetown: The Musical.” The preview was Thursday, Oct. 16, at 8 p.m. Performances took place Oct. 17-Oct. 18 at 8 p.m., Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. and Oct.23-25 at 8 p.m.

“Urinetown: The Musical” was written by Greg Kotis and takes place in a city  where, due to a 20-year drought, the water is so scarce that private restrooms are banned. Whenever citizens have to use the restroom, they must pay a fee to use the public amenities. The amenities are controlled by the corporation Urine Good Company. Citizens in poverty cannot afford to use the public restrooms, but if anyone urinates on the streets or in bushes and are caught, he or she is taken to the fabled Urinetown. Nobody is sure what Urinetown is, and offenders are never seen again.

Bobby Strong is in charge of accepting fees at Public Amenity No. 9. After his father is taken to Urinetown for urinating in the streets, he meets Hope Cladwell. Hope is the daughter of Caldwell B. Cladwell, the man in charge of UGC. The two fall in love, and Hope inspires Bobby to start a revolution and encourage others to fight for their right to urinate for free.

Bobby (Junior Andy Wegg), along with his pack of rebels, kidnap Hope Cladwell (Senior Elise Campagna) in order to gain an upperhand in the conflict between them and Urine Good Company. Photo by Emanuel Cela

Bobby (Junior Andy Wegg), along with his pack of rebels, kidnap Hope Cladwell (Senior Elise Campagna) in order to gain an upperhand in the conflict between them and Urine Good Company. Photo by Emanuel Cela

Junior music composition and theory and recording technology major Andrew Wegg plays Bobby. He describes Bobby as a compassionate, every day man turned hero who wants the best for people.

“I like Bobby because he knows that he is a good person and that he’s good at heart, but he’s very humble about it,” he said. “And he only brings out his leadership when he needs to, when he sees other people need hope and inspiration.”

While Bobby inspires poor citizens, senior English and theatre major Elise Campagna’s character, Hope, inspires Bobby. She encourages him to “follow his heart.” Campagna said she enjoyed the challenge of making Hope her own character and being a part of a musical that makes fun of itself by referencing other musicals and breaking the fourth wall, which is when the actor recognizes that the audience exists.

“We don’t do a lot of musicals,” she said. “So it’s exciting for me to take on a bigger role in a musical. But also it’s really ridiculous in nature, and that’s how it’s written to be. And it’s been really fun to have the freedom to be that ridiculous.”

According to Musical and Vocal Director Pete Schmutte, the 16 songs in the musical not only reference other musicals, such as “West Side Story,” but also reflect the nature of “Urinetown: The Musical” itself.

“The whole play, even from its title, is kind of off-putting,” he said. “But it’s poking fun at all these various types of musicals and every little cliché from musicals… Everything is a cliché, and even the music is a cliché, and it helps heighten that.”

While the musical is described as a comedy, the ending does take a tragic turn. Cladwell offers Bobby a deal at UGC headquarters in exchange for the return of Hope, who has been taken hostage by Bobby and the other rebels, and for the people to agree to the fees for the public amenities.  Bobby refuses and is told he will be taken to Urinetown. But when Bobby is taken to the top of the UGC building, he realizes that Urinetown does not exist, that offenders are just killed, and he is thrown off the building. Hope and the rebels then storm to Cladwell’s office and throw him off the building.

With UGC and Cladwell gone, the people are free to pee whenever they wish. But with this new freedom, the water supply is completely used up. The population begins to die of thirst, and the town becomes the “Urinetown” everyone had feared for years.

Wegg said this dark ending emphasizes the underlying message audience members need to take to heart.

“It [‘Urinetown: The Musical’] has its comedic moments, but it’s the fact that there is no happy resolve,” Wegg said. “Urinetown will always be Urinetown, and that’s what makes it such a powerful message. The world will end up like this if we are not careful with our resources.

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