Musical Relief

Danny Stock
The vacated splash tank and sea-blue hues of the fall play Metamorphoses gave way to the swirling, sordid satire of Urinetown, The Musical this spring, running select showings from April 26 to May 3. Flush with references to other musicals as well as serious commentary on greed, corruption, and revolution, the self-aware show is known as perhaps one of the most “fun” shows on Broadway. The GDS theater production didn’t disappoint.

Bathed in a sometimes sickly yellow light, theatergoers sat in on a revolution. In a dystopian future in which urination has been banned by the government except at pay toilets monopolized by the money-grabbing “Urine Good Company” (U.G.C.), mop-handler Bobby Strong (Cole Wright-Shaner ’19) leads the oppressed as they struggle to unplug the pay-to-pee system. Between riots at pay toilets and slow motion battles, the audience was treated to musical-comedy theory lessons/monologues from Alex Carnot ‘19 as Officer Lockstock and a knock-out solo in “It's a Privilege to Pee” from Caleigh Vergeer ‘21 as Pennywise. From the lovestruck duet with Cole as Bobby and Maddie Brown ’19 as Hope Cladwell to the big company numbers such as the aptly titled “Act One Finale,” the student performers made good on the "urine for a treat" promise of the show. 

Urinetown is a show that makes you laugh and then think about why you are laughing,” said Maddie Brown ‘19 after the penultimate show. “It’s so much fun; and yet, it makes us think about environmental sustainability and our unfortunate role in the destruction of the planet.”

Cole added, “I loved how the show was able to spark conversation among the cast and crew, whether pertaining to the tyranny of capitalistic intentions, the socio-economic divide of a depression-era United States, or the correct pronunciation of Thomas Malthus’ last name.”

The four-time Tony award-winning Broadway musical with the terrible title (Best Original Score, Best Direction, etc.) Urinetown, The Musical, recalls Les Misérables, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and Broadway musicals generally as a form. The GDS crews behind the scenes, under technical director Christal Boyd, outdid themselves: the textures of the distressed sets, the leaning window shapes above the stage balcony indicating the time of day, and the assorted junk at the audience’s feet lent stunning depth to the strange world of this musical even as set pieces shifted between scenes. Sets designers John Modelfino ’19 and Avi Faber ‘19 with sets crew heads Zoe Ferland ’20, Maddie Rapelyea ’20, and Asta Jorgensen ‘20 created and worked to build these transportative sets. “When the audience walks into the theater, they should have some feeling for what the show is going to be—when and where we are,” Asta and Zoe explained. “We put a lot of attention into the color paletting that gives the dirty, old, rusty vibe as well as planning how to blend in on stage even as we are managing the big trusses and wall changes.” Part of crew heads’ work is to train the younger sets crew members. “Our crew does an amazing job supporting our work and making their own decisions. In the end, it’s just so satisfying. On opening night and after every single show, walking into the audience and looking up on stage, knowing, ‘We made that.’”

Four student musicians—Claire Cooper '22, Abby Kanter '22, Mihir Kesavan '20, Jake Markarian '22—joined a small crew of professional musicians in the orchestra pit, including GDS creative music director Brad Linde, Topher Dunne, and vocal director Jason Strunk. “When I first committed to being in the Urinetown orchestra, I was very nervous,” Abby said. “One wrong note or missed beat could wreck a song. Still, being up in the pit was a lot of fun, as we got to see the show from a whole different angle. Many people don’t understand that the orchestra is extremely difficult, way beyond the notes written on the page. We can’t always ensure the cast is going to sing at the same tempo every time so we always had to make sure we were listening and watching [our musical director] Jason.”

“This was my seventh show in the High School, my twelfth at GDS as a whole, and a great show with which to end my run in GDS Theater,” Cole wrote in reflection. “Not only was I afforded the opportunity—[SPOILER]—to die onstage (a lifetime dream now fulfilled), but I cultivated so many friendships throughout the course of the show because Urinetown is so ensemble driven. Typically, being the lead means that you are sequestered alone with the other principals; however, I was able to connect more with my fellow castmates which was wonderful.”

“The show is nonstop fun,” added Shira Minsk ‘19 (Soupy Sue). “It’s been so exciting to go out each night with the cast and crew. In the beginning, it was a challenge to unite the cast with so much great grade-level diversity represented. Ultimately though, as the nights of rehearsal got longer, the community began to work more cohesively, and we’ve been able to bring such great energy to the stage together.”

“As seniors, we are expected to take on leadership roles, and it feels as if my 13 years at GDS have been leading up to these leading moments,” Cole said.

After this impressive reminder of the strength of the GDS Theater program, don’t miss a chance to catch a future production. You’ve gotta go!

See the program with names of all cast, crew, designers, heads, and administrators » 

Special appreciation to Director Laura Rosberg, Music Director Jason Strunk, Technical Director Christal Boyd, and Choreographer Maria Watson.

View additional performance photos »

Staff writer Danny Stock tells the stories of teaching, learning, competing, creating, and performing at Georgetown Day School. He is a former GDS second grade teacher and current parent.

Jake Markarian ’22 and Abby Kanter ’22 prepare to play in the pit orchestra.

Credit: Brad Linde

Cole Wright-Schaner ’19 as Bobby Strong, with Maddie Brown ’19 as Hope Cladwell

Credit: Jason Putsche

Jamie Hedlund ’19, the ghost of Old Man Strong, with Mateo Brown ’21, Tiny Tom

Credit: Jason Putsche

Elias Rodriguez ’22, Officer Barrel, with Officer Lockstock, Alex Carnot ‘19

Credit: Jason Putsche

Cops (L-R): Sophie Warshauer ’19, Julian Galkin ‘22, Lucy Vogt ’20, Bryce Savoy ‘21

Credit: Jason Putsche

Bobby is thrown off the bridge, complete with Vertigo lights.

Credit: Jason Putsche

The Poor and the Rebels with Miss Pennywise, Caleigh Vergeer ‘21.

Credit: Jason Putsche

The Rebels threaten to hang Hope while The Rich plan her rescue.

Credit: Jason Putsche

Will Foster ’19 as Caldwell B. Cladwell does Liberace

Credit: Jason Putsche

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