By Kim Tang
TCNJ Lyric Theatre debuted its fall show, “Urinetown,” on Friday, Nov. 2 in the Kendall Hall Main Stage Theater to an audience of eager students, faculty, friends and family.
The satirical musical, based on the Greg Kotis’ novel of the same name, originally premiered in 2001, and featured music by Mark Hollmann and lyrics by Hollmann and Kotis. It addresses topics such as greed, poverty, capitalism and politics through fourth wall breaks, song and dance.
The Urinetown Project was started by Alyssa Sileo in April 2018 to raise money for the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The show’s proceeds went to providing clean water to the residents of Flint, and each night, cast members collected donations as well. At the end of the show, the cast had raised more than $850 for the Urinetown Project.
The story follows the people of an unnamed town, where a 20-year drought has caused severe water shortages. These shortages have driven private bathrooms into becoming a thing of the past. All restrooms are public and taxed, and everything is controlled by the “Urine Good Company”, or “UGC” for short, headed by corrupt and greedy Caldwell B. Cladwell, played by sophomore history major Kordell Forrest. The people live in oppression and in fear of breaking the law and being sent to Urinetown, a place that fills the citizens with dread.
Bobby Strong, played by sophomore history major Frank Fabiano, and sophomore vocal and secondary education dual major Joey Rippert, fight back against the corruption following a heartfelt moment with the Cladwell’s daughter, Hope, played by junior music education major Brianna Carson and sophomore elementary education major Katie Cole.
The narrator, Officer Lockstock, played by sophomore music education major Matthew Schlomann, breaks the fourth wall to interact with the audience, often by speaking to Little Sally, played by junior music major Lana Holgado and junior music and communication studies double major, Julia Corso.
The show was filled with upbeat songs, vibrant choreography and social commentary on very relevant topics such as sustainability and natural resources, and corporate greed. “Don’t Be the Bunny” in Act I reveals to the audience the full extent to which Cladwell goes to secure his power and money from an already destitute society.
“For me, Urinetown was an experience unlike any other. When I went to rehearsal for the first time, I was scared. However, people welcomed me with open arms and as time went on, my nerves changed into excitement,” said sophomore health and exercise science major Aaron Agustin, who played Robby the Stockfish. “For the characters of the show, (Urinetown) is a place where people learned to live in fear. For me, it was the place where I grew and made good friends.”
The cast was a mixture of first-time performers, theater veterans and even members of the local Trenton community. Albert Varner, a member of Arc Mercer — a group that helps people with special needs — played Old Man Strong, Bobby Strong’s father who gets sent to Urinetown early in Act I, in the show.
Audience members enjoyed the emotional roller coaster that the performance provided.
“It wasn’t like any musical I’ve ever seen and had a good balance of comedy and seriousness,” said senior interactive multimedia major Julie Huang. “You could tell everyone worked hard, and kudos to them.”