Thursday, November 1, 2007

Brilliant! And Your Last Chance!

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From Betti Trauth's review in the Eureka Times-Standard Northern Lights:

"Brilliant. That's the comprehensive adjective that could best describe “Urinetown: The Musical,” the current collaborative production of HSU's Department of Theatre, Film and Dance -- an innovative and darkly entertaining show that completes its all-too-limited run at the Van Duzer Theatre Saturday."

"With hints of a Brechtian “Three Penny Opera” edge, the music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis (who also wrote the book), are tuneful, clever and witty. They're also often touching with a wicked insight that is so sharp it can cut to the bone as the story explores what happens to a society when even the most necessary bodily functions are “privatized for pay.”

Outstanding in the fine-tuned ensemble cast of 30 are: Clayton Cook as Officer Lockstock, Chris Hatcher as Officer Barrel, Katherine Bickford as Penny Pennywise, Lindsey Tewsbury as Little Sally, Heath Houghton as tycoon Caldwell B. Cladwell, Jamie Banister as his daughter Hope, Chris Scardina as Mr. McQueen, Lela Annotto-Pemberton as Senator Fipp and Erik Rhea as hero Bobby Strong. "

So, make it a point to see this exceptional production before it closes this weekend. Performances continue tonight, Friday and Saturday.

"Rarely will local audiences have the chance to see such a creatively-conquered artistic package, one that so neatly wraps up every production aspect with such polished theatrical aplomb that the end result is all but seamless."

And Wendy Butler in her review in the Eureka Reporter says: "Count on a spectacular show at HSU."

URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL concludes its run in the Van Duzer Theatre at HSU with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (November 1-3) at 7:30 pm. Tickets from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Jamie Banister as Hope Cladwell and Erik Rhea
at HSU. Posted by Picasa Photos: HSU Graphic Services.

Preview the Love for URINETOWN!

Scene Editor Jennifer Savage in the 10/23 Arcata Eye:

"I’m typically a believer that one’s bodily functions should be—with the exception of illness or impairment—kept to oneself. I don’t need to hear pee and poop stories, thank you very much. But when the word ‘Urinetown’ crossed my inbox, I almost danced with joy. I’ve been waiting years to see this play, which received rave reviews in the New York Times and the New Yorker and many other prestigious publications. It’s a perfect story for Arcata, as anyone who has ever needed a public toilet in A-town can attest.”

Don’t Hold It! Just Go—It’s Urinetown by Melinder Spencer in the 10/24 HSU Lumberjack:

“The upbeat, cheery music of the show is in the typical style of most musical theatre classics such as “Wicked” or “Hairspray” but don’t be fooled by the candy-coated exterior, this is no typical Broadway musical.”

See also Pee For Free and End Up in Urinetown by Ron Thunman in the Eureka Times-Standard magazine, Northern Lights, and URINETOWN in Town in the Eureka Reporter, both today (10/25)!


Hip, hilarious, wicked, satirical, scatological, delirious… Postmodern parody, political subversion, an anti-musical musical--just some of the descriptions that have been applied to URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL.

Katherine Bickford as Penny
Pennywise and Hugh Houghton
as Caldwell B. Cladwell.
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Bruce Weber wrote this in his New York Times review of the Broadway production: “Not only does it poke fun at itself, but it also pokes fun at poking fun at itself.” He called it “serious foolishness” and responds to the question posed in the show: “What kind of musical is this?” Weber’s answer: “An original one.”

Megan Hughes as Little Becky Two Shoes, Charles
Heinberg as Hot Blades Harry, Robin DiCello,
Katherine Bickford and Heath Houghton.
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“It pokes fun in an affectionate way at various musical theatre genres,” explains Rae Robison, director of the HSU production and assistant professor in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. “Like the big production Busby Berkeley movie musical number, the big Gospel number with the choir, West Side Story meets the The Threepenny Opera, or the Les Miz moment where the people’s rebellion takes over.”

“It’s not formulaic,” adds Elisabeth Harrington, the production's music director and assistant professor in the Department of Music, “but at the same time it’s so formulaic it’s ridiculous. It takes the audience on an almost manic ride of styles.”

“There are a lot of gross jokes, and moments of ‘Wow,’ Harrington adds. “This show puts its cards on the table—there’s no mystery--but there are surprises in how far the joke can take us.”

Erik Rhea and Jamie Banister
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The story

The story is unusual but fairly simple: in a city of the future, after a generation of drought, a brutal company forces the population to pay to perform one of the absolutely necessary functions of life: to urinate. (Think Blade Runner with toilet jokes. Lots of toilet jokes.) Anyone caught attempting to “pee for free” is sent to a penal colony called “Urinetown.” But a rebellion is brewing, and there’s a hero, a romance, and a revolution—and a twist.

Chris Scardina as Mr. McQueen with Heath
Houghton and Jamie Banister.
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URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann was the surprise hit of the 2001 Broadway season. It earned 10 Tony nominations and three Tony Awards in 2002, in addition to other prizes. It went on for nearly a thousand performances, then a national tour that began in San Francisco, and successful productions in Toronto and Chicago.

Heath Houghton, Chris Scardina and Katherine
Kinley as Mrs. Millenium.
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URINETOWN does have its serious side. “It does talk about how we are using our natural resources, and who controls those resources,” Robison said. “It talks about privilege, but also about human nature.”

But even in this, expectations are undercut by some non-formulaic developments. “Not many musicals kill people on stage,” Robison said. “We do—although in a theatrical, non-bloody way.”

As for the music, “It really spans the spectrum in musical style—gospel, a classical sound in the love story, a soft shoe, lots of upbeat music,” Elisabeth Harrington comments. “The range for the singers is amazing—vocally, emotionally, dynamically, stylistically. There’s so much manic back and forth throughout the course of the evening across a broad spectrum of music, from jazz to opera. It’s impossible to be a passive listener.”
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“This production is a fully participating entry from HSU in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival,” Robison adds. “This means that adjudicators will come from our five state region and give recommendations, so perhaps we’ll travel to our regional festival and be seen by hundreds and hundreds of people outside the North Coast. And if we win there, we could go on to take this musical to the Kennedy Center in Washington and perform there. It is a wonderful opportunity for our student designers and performers, and for Humboldt State.”
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Hands across departments

The HSU production has a large cast—“There are 31 actors on stage at one point,” Robison said. Also on stage throughout is the band of five musicians, who are sometimes part of the action.

“We’ve got seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen in this show, from both the Music Department and Theatre, Film & Dance,” Rae Robison said. “Our theatre kids have been coming to me to say how excited they are to be working with the music kids. Now they’re all hanging out together. We’ve started something, and they want to do more things together.”
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Are you girls new in town?

Both director Rae Robison and music director Elisabeth Harrington are in their second year of residence on the North Coast, and of teaching at HSU.

They’ve already been on North Coast stages: Rae Robison acted in the Shake the Bard production of Twelfth Night at the Arcata Playhouse this summer, and in last season’s HSU production of The School for Scandal, for which she also designed the costumes. In addition to two solo recitals at HSU, Elisabeth Harrington was seen and heard in the most recent Humboldt County Light Opera production, Titanic: The Musical.

Before joining the HSU Department of Theatre, Film & Dance, Rae Robison was a designer, director, actor and filmmaker as well as a teacher. She has been a part of over 150 stage productions in the U.S. and Europe, seven feature films and several television pilots. Two of her short films have gone to the Sundance Film festival, and one received awards at the Toronto Film Festival.

Her costume work with Walt Disney’s Imagineering can be seen at EuroDisney. She’s received numerous Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival recognitions for her work on seven productions at Central Missouri State University.

As a performer, soprano Elisabeth Harrington sang opera with the Aspen Music Festival Opera, the Sarasota Opera and other companies. In 1996 she was the North Carolina district winner for the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. But she also appeared in musical theatre, and for five years she sang and played flute in a blues and bluegrass band. Her musical interests include global music, which she first heard in college, when she earned her B.A. in music and anthropology.

As a teacher, she maintained a private voice studio and taught voice at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for eight years. She earned her degrees in Voice Performance at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Now a member of the HSU Department of Music, she teaches voice and directs the Opera Workshop.

Katherine Bickford and Heath
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URINETOWN: The Creation Myth

While bumming through Europe and spending his dwindling funds on pay toilets, Greg Kotis witnessed a rally for the Rumanian dictator Ceausecu, complete with intimidation of the populace. These two experiences came together in the initial idea for a musical about privatization taken to a then- unimagined extreme.

URINENTOWN: THE MUSICAL began as a late entry in the 1999 New York City Fringe Festival, moved to Off-Broadway and then to a Broadway production that earned 10 Tony nominations in 2002, winning for Best Original Musical Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Director.

Now this fringe-to-Broadway hit is one of the ten most performed musicals all over the country.
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Dirty Minds

Charles Shaughnessy, an actor in the Broadway production, comments on his web site that he’s heard many schools are considering doing this musical but are “hesitant to do it because of the title of the show!” He believes that colleges “could not pick a better show” because: “The deeply thoughtful message of the show concerning abuse of power, corruption and oppression is wrapped up in a deliciously anarchic and satirical coating that appeals to the sensibilities of just the blossoming minds you find on campuses.”

On this topic, director Rae Robison commented: “Recently the show was axed at a public high school in Ohio and replaced by a more ‘wholesome’ show, The Music Man. The irony of choosing a show where the main protagonist is a swindler stealing money from the town and its children, as opposed to our hero, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, who leads the poor in a people’s revolution, was probably not lost on the creators of our musical. After all, a show where corporations control the masses, worldwide ecological collapse is imminent, the government and law enforcement officials are for hire, basic human necessities are available only to the rich, and a revolution erupts may be too controversial for every venue. I’m glad we’re not afraid of tackling a show which makes us all a little uncomfortable about our resources being used up and the realities of the checks and balances that Mother Nature occasionally bounces our way. Enjoy your visit to Urinetown – not the place, just the musical.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

URINETOWN Comes to Our Town

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Scenic designer Jody Sekas and Director Rae
Robison at Pastels on the Plaza, helping to teach
children in Arcata the real purpose of art: advertising!
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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

warming up?

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Monday, October 8, 2007

How about this one?

The cast in meditation? Low blood sugar? Or
are they...plotting something? [click on image to
hugeify it.]
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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Caption This!

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Friday, October 5, 2007

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The Cast

Officer Lockstock: Clayton Cook
Officer Barrel: Chris Hatcher
Penny Pennywise:Katherine Bickford
Bobby Strong: Erik Rhea
Little Sally: Lindsey Tewksbury
Caldwell B. Cladwell: Heath Houghton
Mr. McQueen/Und. Hot Blades Harry: Chris Scardina
Senator Fipp: Lela Annotto-Pemberton
Hope Cladwell: Jamie Banister
Little Becky Two Shoes: Megan Hughes
Hot Blades Harry: Charles Heinberg
Company/Old Man Strong: Logan Porrazzo
Josephine Strong/Und. Penny: Kirsten Randrup
Soupy Sue: Kristin Hoffman
Company/Tiny Tom/ UGC Executive #2: Gabriel Holman
Company/Robby the Stockfish: Thomas Tucker
Company/Billy Boy Bill: Mason Lev
Company/Mrs. Millenium: Katherine Kinley
Cladwell’s Secretary/Und Hope: Kelly Whitaker
Company/UGC Executive #1: Jaclyn Catino
Company/Und. Little Becky/Dr. Billeaux: Serena Porter
Company/Und. Soupy Sue/ Und. Mrs. Millenium: Chisana White
Company/Und. Old Man Strong: Jarod Settles
Company/Und. Josephine: Danielle VandeWetering
Company/Girl Cop/Und. Little Sally: Robin Di Cello
Company/Boy Cop/Und. Senator Fipp:Ethan Heintz
Company/Und. Bobby: Kyle Ryan
Company/Und. Barrell: Patrick Croft
Company/Und. Cladwell: Alex Mitra
Company: Sara Scibetta
Company: Kaia Renouf
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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

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Director: Rae Robison
Asst. Director: Christina Focht
Music Director: Elisabeth Harrington
Scenic Designer: Jody Sekas
Asst. Scenic Designer: Caitlin Hoy
Costume Designer: Jen Hood
Lighting Designer: James P. McHugh
Choreographer: Maria Meyer
Dance Captain: Lela Annotto-Pemberton

Technical Director: Jayson Mohatt
Asst. Technical Director: Henry Echeverria
Makeup/Hair Designer: Julia Chase
Stage Manager: Justin Takata
Asst. Stage Manager: Mychal Dukken
Properties Design: Calder Johnson

Poster Design: Johanna Hembry
Program Design: Debra Ryerson

Lighting Crew: Dylan Buchman
Makeup Crew: Lela Annotto-Pemberton, Gina Denegri, Samantha Kobelin

Scene Shop Supervisors: Joseph Castro,Henry Echeverria
Costume Shop Manager: Catherine Brown
Milliner: Emily Blanche

Administrative Support Staff: Debra Ryerson, Suzan Logwood, Barbara Cline,
Cheryl Wheeler
Publicity: William Kowinski
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Coming Soon!

URINETOWN, a subversive musical: October 25-28, 30 and November 1-3 in the Van Duzer Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. Stage Director: Rae Robison; Musical Director: Elisabeth Harrington. An HSU Department of Theatre, Film & Dance and HSU Department of Music co-production.