Alberta Youth Theatre Collective reviews J. Percy Page's Urinetown

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The Edmonton Journal is proud to host reviews of local high school theatrical productions, written by student reviewers through the Alberta Youth Theatre Collective. Reviews of past shows can be found here

By Kristina Kasengulu

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Millwoods Christian School

After the final bows of J. Percy Page High School’s performance of Urinetown, the audience burst into a roar of heartfelt and reflective applause. Through the collaborative endeavours and diligence of this 50-member cast and crew, this troupe of high school students were able to deliver what many would describe as a sensation.

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Created by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman, Urinetown tells the story of a Gotham-like city grappling with a dire water shortage due to an enduring drought. This crisis prompts the government to implement a ban on private toilets, compelling citizens to resort to regulated public facilities. Unfortunately, these facilities fall prey to the manipulative clutches of a malicious and greedy corporation, The Urine Good Company, who exploit essential human needs for financial gain. While navigating critical themes such as corporate greed, social injustice, and environmental concerns, the cast and crew delivered a performance that skillfully blended brilliant thought provocation with an infusion of enjoyable theatrics.

Bobby Strong, the main protagonist, was played by Peter Robertson who astounded the audience with his imaginative portrayal of Bobby’s brave and resolute character. Peter’s remarkable vocals, thoughtful utilization of body language, and on-stage chemistry with his fellow cast members left the audience in great admiration of his talent. This was further complemented by the impeccable talent of his co-star, Gabriella Surowiec, who skillfully conveyed her character Hope Cladwell’s diverse range of emotions, fostering a strong connection with the audience, accompanied by remarkable vocals. Sam Robertson exceptionally portrayed Officer Lockstock and consistently elicited laughter from the audience by skillfully embodying the comedic essence of the character, adding a delightful and appropriate touch of humour to the production.

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The musicality of this performance stood out as one of its most remarkable features. Amidst the ensemble, Addison Terry (playing Soupy Sue) and Justaya Carter (playing Hot Blades Harry) distinguished themselves, showcasing exceptional harmonies and a vocal prowess that mesmerized the audience. Meanwhile, Madison Demers, in a way that can only be described as truly remarkable, adeptly captured the child-like demeanour of her character, Little Sally, through her singing that left the audience craving for more. Through each song, the cast masterfully immersed the audience into the world of Urinetown and its inhabitants through their harmonious fusion of music and narrative.

The unwavering dedication of the crew intricately weaved together the brilliance of this performance. The ingeniously crafted set, featuring seamless transitions, captivated many with its artistry. The strategic use of lighting by Madeline Lee and Greg Bowcott, particularly in songs such as Why Did I Listen to That Man, masterfully depicted the array of emotions confronting each character at that specific moment. Costuming by the crew demonstrated adept skill, effectively capturing the distinctive traits of each character. This collaborative effort transformed the production into a phenomenon, making it seem effortless.

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Due to the collective efforts of both the cast and crew, Urinetown by J. Percy Page underwent a remarkable transformation into a breathtaking performance.

By Rosalie Briggs

Strathcona High School

It’s a privilege to pee and it was a privilege to see all of the hard work that was put into J. Percy Page High School’s production of Urinetown. A satirical production that criticizes capitalism while also poking fun at musicals, Urinetown follows the citizens of an unnamed city where, in order to save water during a decades-long drought, people are charged to use the bathroom. This musical is witty and charming, while still talking about real issues, and the students at J. Percy Page did an excellent job with their rendition.

Both the acting and the singing were phenomenal; working around the unique challenges of a small space and no microphones, the projection and balance of voices and harmonies were incredibly well executed. Peter Robertson as protagonist Bobby Strong, a custodian and leader of the rebellion, stood out vocally and expressively and had an incredibly captivating stage presence. Being in only grade 10 and this being his first show, his performance was outstanding, as well as his chemistry with co-star Gabriella Suroweic as Hope Cladwell, the love interest of the story. She also delivered great vocals and expression, as well as incredible comedic timing contributing to some of the funniest parts of the production, and together they brought the story to life. While the rest of the cast was excellent, never breaking character, and always having something to see in the background of a scene. One standout was the policeman and narrator of the story, played by Sam Robertson. From fourth wall breaks to physical characterization, like the taking off and putting on of his sunglasses in practically every scene, he was hilarious and stole the audience’s attention every time he was on stage.

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With a limited set, a small space, and simple tech, this production really made the most of what they had to work with. The set was creatively structured around a grey flat with interchangeable layers, the world composed between a brick wall and the windows of a corporate tower. The lighting was very well done, changes in colour to symbolize mood (or urine), spotlights, and blackouts were all very well timed. The balance of the music and vocals was also very well done, especially considering there was no way to control the volume of singing. Costuming was unique for each character, and costume changes were swift and efficient. In the second act hand puppets were used in scenes of violence, bringing both safety and comedy to stage combat, which was a choice with heavy comedic payoff. While there were some hiccups in direction, such as unfilled spots where no one had lines or actions, the actors did a great job working around them and never let the story break.

This production was clearly the result of plenty of effort and dedication, and it was really great to watch. The students at J. Percy Page combined six months of hard work, an incredibly talented cast and crew, and a town where it’s illegal to pee for free, and created art.

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By Maya Palka

St. Oscar Romero High School

Prepare to flush away your preconceptions about Urinetown because at J. Percy Page, the musical boldly takes the stage, challenging the boundaries of comedy, satire, and societal norms. Where water is scarce and bathroom breaks are a luxury, this audacious production dives headfirst into the toilet of social commentary delivering a comedic whirlwind that leaves the audience peeing in their seats. Start counting your coins, because seeing this eccentric production is worth every single cent!

Urinetown is a satirical musical comedy that premiered in 2001. The show features music and lyrics by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis. The story is set in a fictional dystopian city where a water shortage has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. Citizens must use public amenities, operated by a corrupt company, Urine Good Company. Despite its abnormal and dark premise, Urinetown is known for its clever and humorous writing, catchy songs and its potential to satirize both traditional and musical theatre tropes and societal issues. Urinetown has gained popularity for its unique blend of humour and social commentary.

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From the moment Sam Robertson came out as the narrator of Officer Lockstock, the audience was drawn to his charm and wit. Robertson was dedicated to his character flawlessly, and his vocals enriched the musical. He had absolute perfect diction when narrating the story with Madison Demers as Little Sally, and had phenomenal comedic timing as he made sarcastic observations. Peter Robertson portrayed Bobby Strong, the protagonist, and Robertson expressed the transformation that his character undergoes through his mannerisms and facial expressions. As Bobby Strong gained more confidence, the audience heard it as Robertson’s vocals only got stronger as the show progressed. He truly embodied Bobby Strong, it was evident that every emotion was seen on his face through the chemistry Robertson had with Gabriella Surowiec, who played the significant character of Hope Cadwell. Hope’s romantic relationship with Bobby Strong adds emotional depth to the story and is expressed beautifully by the pair. Surowiec didn’t take her eyes off Robertson for even a moment. Surowiec’s vocals gave the audience chills. She played into the naive and sheltered character that Hope is through her bewildering acting abilities and she shined through her stage presence.

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The show’s set was simple but was painted beautifully and the students paid close attention to detail. With the show being student-led, stage managers changed the set flawlessly and at times you couldn’t tell that they were there. As they took things on and off of the stage, it was almost as if it was choreographed. Even though they might’ve had a smaller and unconventional space the choreography was good and the formation was exceptional. The space that the actors had was well-used. There was a great use of lighting and sound was adequate as the actors projected beautifully.

It’s a privilege to pee, and it was a privilege to attend this production of Urinetown!

By Rea Francesca Pallay

St. Oscar Romero High School

J. Percy Page High School “followed their hearts” with their performance of Urinetown: The Musical, performing breathtakingly with their ingenious use of their given space, simple yet elaborate utilization of their lights, and ethereal display of their vocals. The satirical comedy musical written and composed by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman explored various topics such as social morality and capitalism by intertwining the ideas of love and a dystopian future.

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Bobby Strong, the assistant custodian of public urinal number nine, becomes internally conflicted by the apprehension of his father and his inability to stand up for him. As the guilt eats at him, he encounters a girl named Hope. She recognizes his internal struggle and deepest desires. With the help of Hope, Bobby becomes inspired and prompted to finally make a change and “follow his heart.” Urinetown dissects relevant issues and questions social morality issues we as a society have difficulties facing today.

Throughout the show, the cast and crew of Urinetown manifested an unforgettable and unique experience. Initially, there was a slight concern about how well the cast would be able to utilize the limited amount of space given to them. However, they quickly brushed off the concern by proving their talent with intricate and thoughtful choreography. An example was their clever use of tableaus or “frozen moments” that allowed different moments in different locations on stage to occur, creating the illusion of a larger setting. Throughout the show, the lighting was simple yet intricate. During the song Act One Finale, both sides of the stage were contrasted by heavy blue and red spotlights to emphasize the growing tension. To provide a deeper understanding of every segment, the tech crew of J. Percy Page tailored specific lights for certain moments that complemented these scenes beautifully.

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Opening the show, Sam Robertson as Officer Lockstock and Madison Demers captured the audience’s attention through their distinctive characterization and compelling vocals during the song Too Much Exposition. Robertson and Demers’ acting complemented one another to the point each audience member was glued to the edge of their seat. Additionally, Peter Robertson as Bobby Strong and Gabriella Surowiec as Hope Cladwell showcased their incredible chemistry consistently throughout the show and most notably in the song Follow Your Heart. This pair of extraordinary actors showcased the true extent of their ethereal vocals while maintaining character, which is not an easy feat. Their display of the characters’ hopeful and naive nature complemented one another and made themselves immediately recognizable from the rest of their cast. From start to finish, each cast member consistently exceeded expectations as each performance left chills down.

Although Urinetown surely met the fate of “what it was always waiting to be,” the cast and crew of J. Percy Page displayed unwavering enthusiasm and astonishing talent through their performance of Urinetown: The Musical.

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By Pana Mrisa

Millwoods Christian School

In a captivating and satirical portrayal of the Broadway play Urinetown, J. Percy Page High School exceptionally captured the message of the show while maintaining the naivety of it all. With capitalism and its implications being the general theme of the play, Page was faced with the challenging task of making the audience think as well as laugh. They did an exceptional job of making the characters, set and overall show their own while causing the audience to relate to large musical numbers about urine.

Urinetown, the Musical which was on Broadway in 2001 tells the story of a town plagued by 20 years of drought and unreasonable fees on a basic human right…urination. As the poor suffer with the rising fees imposed on them by the capitalist company run by Cladwell.B.Cladwell (Owen Lee), a pure but revolutionary romance blossoms. Bobby Strong (Peter Robertson), our noble protagonist, is inspired by a dreamy and slightly wishful Hope Cladwell (Gabriella Surowiec) who plants dreams into young Bobby’s head that catapult the show into a whirlwind of suspense, humour and the ever-looming Urinetown. Impressively, they did not rely heavily on props or set pieces to create this world. They only used one large flat as their set of which they would switch out signs, attachments and importantly, lighting to relay the setting. This added credit to the cast’s skills because of how well they were able to act with a practically empty stage, but could still completely transport the audience.

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The success of this production owed much to the exceptional casting of the characters. Especially Officer Lockstock, played by Sam Robertson, who was needed to interact with the audience as well as Little Sally (Madison Demers), while at the same time being involved with the story. He did an exceptional job at making those lines clear and the commitment to his character was seen through how he fully dove into every emotion, line and song. Along with the cast’s admirable acting choices and character portrayal they were also very gifted vocally and took on challenging songs such as Run, Freedom, Run! brilliantly. Peter Robertson, who played Bobby Strong, had a beautiful voice which brought a new level of gallantry to the character. He outstandingly embodied his character in voice and mannerism especially considering this was his first ever theatre experience. Both his voice and Gabriella Surowiecs, who played Hope Cladwell blended together like butter which complemented their already adorable chemistry. Their characters’ romance was depicted so well, that I found myself forgetting they were acting. Gabriella Surowiec who has been classically trained in singing was a wonderful choice for Hope as she perfectly radiated not only the light and dreamy essence of her character but also had an amazing character arc. I would also like to mention the vocals of Rebeckah Hinman (Penelope Pennywise) as well as the incredible characterization of the ensemble, specifically Addison Terry. The show left one thinking and caught the audience’s attention and heartstrings.

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