PlayMakers Repertory Company is most commonly known for producing high-quality professional theater in Chapel Hill. But for the past five years, PlayMakers has been conducting a Summer Youth Conservatory program for high-school aged students.
This year, the Conservatory culminated with four performances of the 2002 Tony Award®-winning surprise Broadway hit, Urinetown: The Musical, with music by Mark Hollman, lyrics by Hollman and Greg Kotis, and book by Kotis. Urinetown is a story of greed, corruption, murder and, yes, pee. The company of 32 Triangle area students — 24 actors and seven technicians — brought this wonderful musical to vibrant life.
One of the most inspiring things I observed was the level of commitment these students had: commitment to their characters, to telling the story, to each other. They made big, strong, fearless choices; and it served them very well. The ensemble worked well together, powering through some slight glitches with microphones, and showed real fortitude in upholding the idea that “the show must go on.”
Adam Maxfield’s set design allowed for inventive and effective staging, despite a slightly problematic downstage lip that proved to be a difficult area for the actors to traverse. Cecilia Durbin’s fantastic lighting design really lifted certain moments, with side lighting that added to the stark, dingy look of the show.
Costume designer Jade Bettin and assistant designer Adam Dill outfitted the ensemble in winning fashions, from the dirtiest denizen to the most top-ranked officials.
I hesitate to formally “review” the performances of this production, as that is not the intended outcome of the five-week conservatory. What I will say is that under the skilled direction of PlayMakers veteran Julie Fishell and guest director Jeff Stanley, the show was a rousing success. The cohesive and bold ensemble was ably led by those in the featured roles. But surely every actor took away an experience they will carry with them as they blossom into more seasoned performers.
And that, ultimately, is the greatest success of this show, and of youth arts programs across the Triangle and beyond; they have allowed young people to come together, to learn how to work as one unit towards a common goal, and to appreciate the effort and strength it requires to be successful. And that deserves a standing ovation.
SECOND OPINION: July 22nd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jeffrey Rossman: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5665; July 22nd Raleigh, NC SusiePotter.com review by Susie Potter: http://www.susiepotter.com/playmakers-urinetown-is-a-gross-good-time.html; July 18th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel preview by Katie Marriner: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2012/07/a-world-without-free-restrooms; July 16th Chapel Hill, NC Chapelboro ® 1360WCHL preview by Michelle Lewis: http://www.chapelboro.com/–You-Gotta-Go—To-PlayMakers-This-Week/12456239?pid=252617; July 16th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Wes Platt: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/19342203/article-GETTING-THEIR-FEET-WET (Note: You may have to register to read this article); and July 3rd Durham, NC Triangle Tribune preview by Sommer Brokaw: http://www.triangletribune.com/index.php?src=news&srctype=detail&category=Arts+and+Lifestyle&refno=6870. (Note: To read the July 18th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/07/urinetown-the-musical-is-a-scathing-satire-of-broadway-message-musicals-on-the-evils-of-capitalism/.)
SHOW: http://playmakersrep.org/urinetown. PRESENTER: http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/syc. BLOG: http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/. VENUE: http://www.playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen. OTHER LINKS: The Musical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urinetown (Wikipedia). Mark Hollmann: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Hollmann (Wikipedia). Greg Kotis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Kotis (Wikipedia). Julie Fishell: http://drama.unc.edu/indiv_juliefishell.html (UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Dramatic Art).
Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC actor, director, and theater and music critic. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review. To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Jesse R. Gephart’s Triangle Theater Review reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/jesse-r-gephart/.