Olentangy Valley News

Satire sprinkled with inside jokes

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The cast and crew of Olentangy Orange High School's production of Urinetown are aware the show's title can lead to some publicity problems.

"You hear Urinetown and you just think, 'Oh God, I don't want see this,' but it's one of my favorite shows I've ever seen and it's really fun to act in," said junior Grey Vaughan, who narrates the play as Officer Lockstock.

The satirical musical comedy, which runs today through Sunday, March 20-23, at Orange High School, follows a group of freedom fighters who take on the corporation that owns and operates every toilet in town. All citizens must pay to use the public toilets after a long drought leads to a water shortage and a ban on private facilities.

Orange theater director Cathy Swain-Abrams said even she had to be convinced about the show's appropriateness.

"When I first heard of it, honestly, I felt very negative about it because the title is so off-putting, and I'm not one for potty language at all," she said.

She changed her mind after watching another school perform the show at a state theater conference.

She said the show, with its inside jokes about theater and musicals, and characters speaking directly to the crowd, should be fun for the performers and the audience.

"We're constantly reminding them that they're watching a performance," she said.

Sophomore Josh Ryan, who plays lead character Bobby Strong, said the actors have to put in a lot of preparation to make sure those winks and nods to the audience work.

"There's so many hidden jokes in the play that you have to kind of dissect the script to really understand everything and every joke to make it funny," he said.

Ryan said although Urinetown is a comedy, it touches on contemporary issues such as corporate greed, government regulation and taxation. He said the show is a fun way to look at serious topics.

The show takes some inspiration from the political issue dramas and musicals of the 1930s and '40s, such as The Cradle Will Rock.

Junior Hannah Klabunde, the show's costumes lead, said the musical's setting allowed her and the cast to have some fun with costumes, hair and makeup.

"The inspiration for this is definitely in the '40s," she said. "It's kind of one of those productions that doesn't necessarily have a time period, but our inspiration is clothes and things from the '40s."

Swain-Abrams said she's working with a younger cast than usual on the show, but it hasn't led to any problems during the preparation stage.

"We have overall a younger group than sometimes we do," she said. "It's been amazing, though. They're extremely dedicated and have caught on to stuff so fast."

Student director Grayson Feeman, a junior who also plays Mr. McQueen, said it won't take the audience long to get past any discomfort with the show's subject matter. He said it hasn't been too difficult to convince people to check it out.

"It takes a little bit of effort to get across that it does have something to do with urine, but that doesn't mean it's just a completely filthy, weird show," he said.

Swain-Abrams said the high school's Interact Club, which is sponsored by Rotary, will use the production as a chance to collect donations for clean water- and sanitation-related charitable causes. The show will be staged at 7 p.m. tonight through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for students and senior citizens. For more information, call 740-657-5112.

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