Dark musical an unlikely hit

'Urinetown: The Musical' proves surprisingly adaptable for a largely student-starring production at AACC

  • Kacey Staniszewski, seated at center, plays the part of Hope Cladwell. To her immediate left is Grace Canfield as Little Sally, and to her immediate right is Anwar Thomas as Bobby Strong.
Kacey Staniszewski, seated at center, plays the part of Hope… (Bud Johnson, for the Baltimore…)
April 11, 2010|By Mary Johnson | Special to The Baltimore Sun

Urinetown" tells a uniquely modern, dark story, which resulted from the experiences of creators Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis while traveling in Europe in the mid-1990s. After finding only pay restrooms for the public, they were inspired to write a musical. Hollman began writing the music and lyrics, while Kotis contributed lyrics and wrote the book. It debuted as "Urinetown: The Musical" at the 1999 International Fringe Festival. In late spring and early summer of 2001 the show was performed off Broadway.

The musical debuted on Broadway on Sept. 20, 2001 - the first musical to open in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It became a surprise hit, running for 966 performances, and winning several Tonys.

I was surprised at a recent rehearsal of the show by the Theatre at AACC to find how well it translates to a largely student production. The story is about a water shortage that causes consumption to be controlled by a corporation that owns the public facilities. It dictates that all citizens pay to use them, creating a political situation that causes frustration to boil over, until some residents revolt and turn into terrorists.

Student cast members include Emily Sergo as Little Becky 2-Shoes, who proved she really knows how to belt out a song, as did Josh Konick as Hot Blades Harry.

Grace Canfield plays Little Sally, a street urchin who constantly questions the play's logic.

Displaying his natural star power in song and dance was Anwar Thomas as hero Bobby Strong, who enchanted rich-girl hostage Hope Cladwell (student Kacey Staniszewski).

AACC staff member and veteran actor Jerry Vess delivered some fine singing as Officer Lockstock, the narrator and a corrupt policeman. Local actor-singer Jim Knost displayed powerful pipes in the role of unscrupulous boss Caldwell B. Cladwell.

In a brief chat with Vess, he expressed his respect for "this strong student cast, especially the energy and professionalism" of some of the leads, as well as for the technical crew.

Anwar Thomas, who intently watched several students rehearse a dance number, said they were "doing well with choreography that had only been delivered the night before."

The impressive singing of the student chorus reflects the excellent work of musical director Douglas Brandt Byerly, who chairs AACC Performing Arts. Choreography is by AACC instructor Tommy Parlon. Direction is by Lars Tatom, assistant AACC professor of performing arts and coordinator of The Theatre at AACC. If you go {ldquo}Urinetown" performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and April 22, 23 and 24 and at 2 p.m. April 18 and 25. All performances are at Pascal Center for Performing Arts on the Arnold campus. This production is suitable for ages 12 and up. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $12 for seniors, students, groups and AACC employees, and $5 for AACC students. Make reservations by phone at 410-777-2457 or at boxoffice@aacc.edu . Walk-up box office hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and weekends when the box office is open for events.

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