Imagine trying to hold your pee in for days, if not years. That’s what the actors in Missouri Western State University’s latest musical are doing.
The satirical musical “Urinetown” debuted on Broadway in 2011 and will be performed on the university’s Potter Hall stage. Director Tee Quillin says every character in the story has his or her own interpretation of the titular Urinetown, a place where people are sent in a post-apocalyptic society where people aren’t allowed to urinate due to a water shortage.
“If you’re caught doing that, the punishment is you’re sent to Urinetown,” Quillin says. “And so Urinetown is this punitive place that people are sent to.”
One of the things that attracted Quillin to the musical is that it takes theatrical stereotypes and tropes and satirizes them. He says this style of theater was developed by Bertolt Brecht.
“In that case it’s highly, highly, highly theatrical,” Quillin says. “There’s not a scent of realism at all.”
Quillin says they are taking to heart the fact that the musical doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time the characters take everything seriously.
“It plays very closely on that motif where you’ve got all these characters that everything literally is a matter of life and death, and most of these characters have not gone to the bathroom in a very, very long time,” Quillin says.
Some of their research included discovering what exactly happens to the human body after holding urine for an extended period of time. Quillin’s wife, a nurse, helped them develop a sheet to coincide with the symptoms.
“It basically causes you to go crazy,” Quillin says. “And on a certain level, even though the play never directly addresses that, it addresses that ... We’ve got a couple of characters that have gotten themselves so much to that point that they’ve not gone pee in that long that this is what happens to them at this point.”
Quillin says the play is very minimalistic in its presentation, but the music includes wide, sweeping and rich pieces.
“We’ve got some very adept choral singers as well as being soloists as well,” Quillin says. “They’re working really, really well together to bring that choral sound but also in stepping forward as soloists and leading characters.”
The show comes complete with a Romeo-and-Juliet-style romance and narrators who also exist in the world of the play to guide the audience through the musical.
“It’s very tongue-in-cheek, it’s very fun,” Quillin says. “It’s actually quite a tame musical.”