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Drought-crazed utopia flushes away common sense

February 15. 2017 1:02PM

JoJo Boyle portrays Little Sally and Zahary Gottschall is Officer Lockstock in Dartmouth Department of Theatre's production of “Urinetown.” (Josh Renaud)

HANOVER — Dartmouth Department of Theatre serves up a send-up of greed, political movements, love and musicals in a future where water is worth its weight in gold.

A 25-member cast will sing, dance, pun and romance its way through its production of the Tony Award-winning “Urinetown” Friday through Feb. 26 in The Moore Theater of the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The story of a drought-crazed dystopia in which a malevolent company profits from one of humanity’s basic needs began in the mind of actor/playwright Greg Kotis when, in the mid-1990s, he took an ill-financed trip to Paris during which the city’s pay-per-use toilets were a strain on his meager means.

Back in the States, he shared an idea for a new show with theater friend Mark Hollmann. Deciding to self-produce a production, they got the show accepted to the New York Fringe Festival in 1999.

From the standing ovation opening night, the show became a runaway hit, its popularity moving it first to Off-Broadway, where it won an Obie, and then to almost 1,000 shows on Broadway and multiple Tony wins.

The story centers on a longterm drought, and heartless corporate control of dwindling water resources mean common citizens must pay increasingly steep fees to relieve themselves in sanctioned facilities.

Along the way, the characters make witty, self-aware commentary on the conventions of musical theater and hilariously skewer the genre with numbers reminiscent of “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Threepenny Opera.”

Director Jamie Horton, a Dartmouth theater professor and actor, likes how the satirical treatment still manages to deal with substantial issues. It’s unabashedly entertaining but also profound.

“That opposition is what makes it the kind of work it is,” he said.

In program notes, he elaborated: “I have loved this musical since I first saw it in 2003, because of the boldness of the questions it asks, certainly, but even more so because of the brilliance of its form — its wit, its sense of humor about itself, its biting, entirely modern, no-holds-barred approach.”

In addition to a production team of faculty and visiting theater artists, Dartmouth senior Julie Solomon is serving as associate scenic designer.

In conjunction with Dartmouth’s staging of the show, a panel discussion titled “Our Dystopian Moment: 2017 and the Politics of Urinetown” will take place at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. It then continues at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 23-25, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26.

Tickets are $15, with a $5 discount for youth.

For information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 646-2422.


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