Pangdemonium ends its 2019 season with a splash – Urinetown: The Musical gleefully takes the piss out of politicians, populism, “people power”, capitalism, corporate corruption, and musicals themselves! 20 years on, Urinetown continues to catapult musical theatre into a new dimension with its demented – yet uncannily familiar – depiction of a dystopian world, outrageous songs and a cunning knack of making you laugh ‘til you wet your pants.
Urinetown is set in a fictional “most expensive city in the world”, where a cross-border water crisis has led to a government ban on private lavatories. The woeful water shortage sees the erection of pay-to-pee public toilets operated by an all-powerful corporation, Urine Good Company, owned by the megalomaniac Caldwell B. Cladwell. Breaking the laws against gratuitous public peeing means urination ruination, with offenders being exiled in the dreaded and mysterious “Urinetown”, never to be seen again.
When threatened with yet another pee-fee hike, the poor citizens, having endured overwhelming oppression and bursting bladders, can no longer hold it in, and stage a revolution led by a handsome hero with the heroically handsome name of Bobby Strong. And, in true musical theatre style, he still finds the time and energy to fall hopelessly in love with the honeylicious Hope Cladwell.
“It’s an honour to be part of this one-of-kind musical with such a strong statement. It’s got it all – political satire, parodies of other Broadway musicals, and a great cast!”, says Mina Ellen Kaye, who plays Hope Cladwell in Urinetown. However, playing in a Musical that has clinched three Tony Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards and two Obie Awards, and transcended across the globe in both fringe and Broadway for 20 years, does put some pressure on our cast. “I feel deeply honoured and honestly incredibly privileged to be able to work on this wild and wacky show,” says Benjamin Chow, who plays Bobby Strong. “(But) I do feel a bit anxious too… this show has touched so many people, and these characters have been played by such incredibly talented actors – Hunter Foster, Jennifer Laura Thompson – that it’s a bit daunting!”
While Urinetown may be a fictional, satirical musical comedy, audiences may find themselves nodding along to subtle references to Singapore seeing as the musical does bear a strong resemblance to today’s society – not just in Singapore, but in many other countries too. “I think, at its heart – this quirky take on the people rising up against greedy corporations, fighting against the madness of their time – is a universal tale. We all know this story. And yet, I also feel that, simply by virtue of being performed here in Singapore, (Urinetown will) resonate in a way that is unique to our way of life too,” says Benjamin.
On the other hand, Sean Ghazi – who plays the role of Caldwell B. Cladwell – chooses to remain tight-lipped on what goes on in the musical. “Of course, there is some relevance to today’s society and to Singapore – but I shall leave that up to our audiences to decipher! Otherwise, spoiler alert…”
We also spoke with Tracie Pang, director of Urinetown, who shared more on what spectators can look forward to in the musical.
1. Will there be any renditions/changes made in Pangdemonium’s Urinetown?
Tracie: It is amazing how spookily relevant certain lines in the show are. I think we may emphasize certain things so that they pop out, and maybe add a nudge and a wink to certain local references, but we shall not be changing anything.
2. In ‘This Is What Happens To Pretty Girls‘, a single-stage setting was used throughout the play. Will a similar set be used for Urinetown, or will we witness multiple sets this time?
Tracie: For our shows, each set is designed specifically for the needs of each show, taking into account number of locations, number of cast, period, realistic or abstract choices, and in this case, create a safe space for 17 dancers and the band that will carry the audience into a dystopian future world. I am very excited by the set design for Urinetown, and I am sure you will be too.
3. Pangdemonium’s previous productions over the year have tackled serious and ongoing issues, such as bullying and harassment. Why the sudden choice to take on a humourous play like Urinetown?
Tracie: Pangdemonium has a history of doing diverse productions, from tackling important social issues like in Late Company or Falling, to dark psychological thrillers like The Pillowman, to important new writing like This is What Happens To Pretty Girls, and to musicals and comedies like Rent and Chinglish. Each year we try and finish our season with something either lighter or a musical with a kicker of a story. This year, we found both in Urinetown – it is a wonderous satire comedy and a great musical to boot.
4. Lastly, what can audiences expect to see or experience at Urinetown?
Tracie: Lots of great singing, amazing dancing and to have some sidesplitting laughs!
Urinetown: The Musical
Date: 27 September – 13 October 2019
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 3pm
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, 100 Victoria Street, National Library Building, Level 3, Singapore 188064
Ticket prices start at S$30. For more information, visit https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/town1019.