Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Staging a Local Production of an Unlikely Broadway Hit

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Staging a Local Production of an Unlikely Broadway Hit

Article excerpt

As far as Tony Award-winning shows go, it's hard to imagine one with a worse name than "Urinetown: The Musical. But it was a certifiable hit. In 2001, the satirical musical comedy won over critics and Broadway audiences alike.

During its initial run, the show earned 10 Drama Desk Award nominations and then was nominated for nine Tony Awards. Eventually it took home "Best Book of a Musical and "Best Original Score, but unlike some other Broadway hits, "Urinetown hasn't become a huge favorite.

It's not nearly as sought after by community groups as "Beauty and the Beast or "Les Miserables.

Kenneth Morrison, who directs the Alban Arts Center's production of the show, which opens Thursday night in St. Albans, said that's a shame.

"I think it's very valuable, Morrison said. "It's incredibly relevant to our society. The show contains elements about oppression, class issues.

Set 20 years in the future, "Urinetown: The Musical tells the story of a society struggling under the oppressive yoke of a water conservation tyranny after decades of drought.

Everyone must pay a fee to use the toilet. If they don't, they're arrested and sent to the mysterious Urinetown, never to return.

It's a comedy with dark themes, but not especially gross or overly graphic.

"I'd say it's PG, Morrison said. "It's a great show, once you get past the name.

The name might be a bit vulgar, but the story is strong - not that the story was what drew the first-time stage director to the show in the first place.

"I do have a good bit of experience as a music director, Morrison added, and for him, the music is really the thing. It's what drew him to the musical in the first place.

"I was exposed to the music through show choir, he said.

To be exact, Morrison was at a high school show choir competition when he heard a competing school perform, "Run, Freedom, Run!

"It's one of the most popular songs from the show, Morrison explained.

The song made an impression on him. Morrison hunted down the soundtrack. …

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