“This is Urinetown”: Spring musical “Urinetown” delves into a drenched world


Ryan Guan

Bobby Strong, played by Mathew Mammen (12), leads a team of rebels in the first act’s finale number in the musical “Urinetown.” The cast performed four shows from March 28 to March 30 in the Patil Theater.

by Erica Cai, Esha Gohil, Sara Yen, and Gloria Zhang

With the house lights in the Patil Theater dimmed, Performing Arts Director Laura Lang-Ree exclaims from the back row of the orchestra seats, “Alright, take it to the top of the show!” Hearing these words, the cast, scattered around the stage, transforms from relaxed high school students to actors and actresses settling into their respective roles, scurrying to their places among the pipes and blocks on stage to await the start of the first act. As Communications Manager Catherine Snider strikes out the first notes of the opening song on the piano, the magic begins.

Directed by Lang-Ree and written by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, “Urinetown” tells of a dystopian town suffering from severe drought and struggling to survive. The citizens of this town attempt to conserve water by banning private toilets and forcing everyone to pay to use public restrooms. 

“I first saw ‘Urinetown’ in 2006 at a Fringe festival to see if I wanted Harker to perform it. I was instantly blown away,” said Lang-Ree, “It’s a whole other genre of musicals—it’s not only hilarious and super fun, but it is also a highly political satire. That was really compelling to me, to get into not only a great musical, but to have interesting conversations with the cast and the audience.”

Performance dates will be from Thursday, March 27 to Saturday, March 29 in the RPAC.

Some scenes that the performers look forward to are the poignant yet humorous songs.

“[My favorite moment is] in act one. It’s a very grand, determined musical number, but everything about it is also kind of ridiculous,” said Emmy Huchley (12), who plays the female lead Hope Cladwell. “A lot of the numbers in this show are references to other musicals, and [this] number refers to Les Miserables.”

Auditions for the musical began in September, and those auditioning prepared one monologue from the musical and one song of their choice, then learned a dance to perform.

“[The audition process] was definitely very nerve wracking, but we’re all nervous together, so it became a bonding experience,” said Meghna Phalke (12), who plays one of the villains, Senator Flipp. “No one is trying to tear each other down, even though that’s what you’d expect. Instead, everyone is really supportive of each other—it’s amazing.”

Rehearsals began in mid-January, with each day targeted towards singing, dancing or scene work.

“For acting rehearsals, we typically start with a game and get some information about what’s going on, and if it’s a musical number that we’re doing, we warm up at the piano,” said first time performer Josh Field (9), who plays a Urine Good Company executive. “Then we go bit by bit, blocking and making sure everything is clean, [and] we just go through it until everything’s good enough.”

Unlike last year’s musical, “Urinetown” is less flashy and smaller to fit the stage at the Fringe Festival in Scotland, where the upper school will be performing this summer. Harker attends the festival every four years so that each class has a chance to perform there once. The limited space and time at the venue to set up means that the staging will be altered.

“In Scotland, we’ll probably have a couple of ramps, a couple of platforms and an acting block or two, but nothing quite as big as we’re going to have here,” production manager Brian Larsen said.