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Not Your Conventional High School Musical

Sarah Anne Sillers, a student at Winston Churchill High School, reviews St. Andrew's Episcopal School's "Urinetown."

The choir sings "It's a Privilege to Pee" in St. Andrew's Episcopal School's production of Urinetown.(Photos courtesy of Jonathan Burket)

With a name as ridiculous as "Urinetown," it is immediately clear that this isn't your conventional high school musical. With its production of this witty and irreverent show, St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac provided an amusing yet thought-provoking window into a society where it is "a privilege to pee."

"Urinetown" follows the story of a town in the not-too-distant future where a 20-year drought has caused water to become such a precious commodity that the government has banned private toilets. Instead, the poor citizens are forced to use public amenities, which are monopolized by the Urine Good Company.

St. Andrew's production was a hilarious, quirky romp that shamelessly satirizes bureaucracy, populism and musical theater itself. The cast handled the outlandish subject matter with the perfect blend of absurdity and seriousness.

Jesse Schellenger gave an impressive performance as Bobby Strong, the young workman who leads a revolution against the corrupt UGC, his honest tenor voice highlighting such numbers as the rousing "Run, Freedom, Run." Christine Ash playing Hope Cladwell also was noteworthy as the show's ingenue, believably portraying her character's transformation from innocent bystander to determined rebel. Jacob Horn, as police Officer Lockstock, proved an integral character with his strong stage presence and tongue-in-cheek narration of the show.

Carly Greenspan as Penelope Pennywise commanded the stage with her authoritative belt and delightfully diabolical persona. As the smooth-talking president of UGC, Ben Wald playing Caldwell B. Cladwell showed his clear baritone in the whimsical "Don't Be the Bunny." And although her part was brief, Tory Johnson's nasal delivery of the uptight Mrs. Millennium drew uproarious laughter from the audience. Although the ensemble as a whole at times seemed rather unengaged, these featured characters noticeably picked up the show's energy by the second act.

"Urinetown" was staged on a simple yet effective set which made use of multiple levels to depict the various locales of the show. Although occasionally erratic microphones and a somewhat garish spotlight were slightly annoying technical issues, the actors never let their focus be pulled away from the performance. The music for the show was expertly provided by the completely student-driven band, directed by seniors David Bridgeman and Charlotte Kiernan.

All in all, St. Andrew's production of "Urinetown" was simultaneously entertaining and intriguing, defying the conventions of musical theater while comically portraying a potential outcome of continuing capitalism.

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 26, 2009; 11:56 AM ET
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