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Students take the plunge
Don’t let the title make you see all yellow when Tony award winning play Urinetown: The Musical, opens at Kalamalka Secondary’s Applebox Theatre Tuesday.
Kal drama teacher and director Shon Thomas says he is well aware that the title itself may put people off the show, however, the play’s relevancy cannot be ignored, and oh yeah, it’s also very funny, contains intelligent satire, and the music is nothing more than brilliant, he said.
“People don’t like the title. A lot of people don’t like talking about the problems the show addresses either. It’s unbelievably topical and contemporary – and it’s not all a rosy endorsement for liberal sentiments either – it’s intelligent,” said Thomas.
This is not the first time Kal students have staged a poignant and beyond-the-norm musical. Last fall’s original production, Broken: An Alternative Musical, explored themes of mental illness and teen angst, whereas, Urinetown explores environmental concerns –from fresh water to oil pipelines– which are continually at the forefront of major media.
“Urinetown is the hilarious and heartbreaking story of what happens to a city when the fresh water runs out,” said Thomas. “Recycling the water becomes a priority and no one can afford to waste a drop. Pretty soon residents are forced to use only public amenities, where every last drop of, well, everything is collected.”
The students have contributed to the production beyond just showing up for rehearsals.
“If I dictate to them and prescribe every moment then the show may look good or be refined, but it’ll have nothing to do with the individuals in the cast and crew. I want their personality in the show. I want their voice in the theatre because that is what empowers young creativity,” said Thomas.
That dedication has been apparent as during a recent New York City theatre trip, Broadway performers were complimentary of not only the student group and their work ethic, but for choosing a play that was “not the same old high school fluff,” said Thomas.
The Broadway folks should know.
First produced in 2001, Urinetown sky-rocketed on the Great White Way in less than a year after its premiere.
“It is considered to be a parody of a number of classic Broadway musicals, as well as a satire of capitalism, politics, bureaucracy and social-activism,” said Thomas, adding despite the parody aspects, the show’s music is not simplistic and is every bit Broadway calibre.
“Our amazing voice coach and accompanist Elaine Viel has never been more challenged by a show. Elaine has elevated her game and has brought the students up with her. The music is fun, beautiful and difficult,” he said.
In light of some of the messages at the core of the show, the Kalamalka production team, under the leadership of visual art teacher Brian Monteith, has built a set re-purposing, recycling and re-using as many materials as possible.
“You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything shiny and new inside the theatre walls,” said Thomas.
Urinetown: The Musical runs at Kal Secondary’s Applebox Theatre at 7:30 p.m. nightly until May 24 (no shows over the Victoria Day weekend, Friday to Monday.) A matinée, for elderly or younger audience members, takes place May 24 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $5/student, and $10/adult, available at the school at lunch, at the box office half an hour before the show, or by reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org.