Emilie Conlon, Editor-in-Chief
The cast of the River Valley High School musical Urinetown: The Musical performed to a limited audience last weekend while striving to overcome challenges brought on by COVID-19, musical directors say.
The high school’s musical was performed on Dec. 18-20 and High School Music Director Becky Schinker said the event went incredibly well.
“It went so smoothly,” said Schinker. “We were all just grateful that it happened. It was a really great weekend.”
The musical, “Urinetown” by Greg Kotis, is a 2001 satirical musical comedy, that comments on capitalism and corporate mismanagement. The plot begins at the precipice of a 20 year drought, inducing hefty water shortages, causing the fictional government to ban private toilets, comedizing a physical human need—to pee.
Public restroom facilities are run by Urine Good Company, an evil corporation that charges residents to pee, and if residents relieve themselves in public or refuse to pay fees, they are sent to the infamous Urinetown.
After the main character’s father is sent to Urinetown, never to be heard from again, a revolution against oppression and corruption erupts.
“It’s kind of perfect for the situation we’re in now,” said Schinker. “It’s a funny, quirk, kind of dark but actually kind of perfect for the pandemic. It takes a whole bunch of styles of other musicals, there’s hints of ‘Les Miserables’, there’s hints of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, there’s hints of ‘West Side Story’, so it’s a musical makes haha at other musicals, while being a political piece as well.”
Production of an in-person musical in the face of COVID-19, didn’t come without its challenges, Schinker said directors of the musical worked to keep everyone safe with strict safety protocols which included daily temperature checks, health surveys, masks and an attempted social distance of at least three feet between actors. Student actors were unable to hug or hold hands while acting.
To ensure audience safety, each student performing received two tickets per daily performance, which gave directors the opportunity to have a list of audience members prior to the performace, and distribute safety information. All audience members were masked as well.
Another challenge performers faced during production of the musical was projecting their voices for speaking and singing through masks.
To remedy the problem, the drama department was given a grant to purchase 10 new wireless microphones for the musical, from the River Valley School District Endowment Fund.
“If you’ve ever tried to sing or project your sound for a group of people with a mask, it’s hard,” said Schinker. “It made such a difference, we could hear them and they felt like they could be heard.”
While musical directors and performers faced many challenges in this not-so-normal-year, Schinker said she was incredibly impressed with the maturity of all the students involved while they learned not to take any opportunity for granted.
“They took nothing for granted, every day they came to rehearsal you could tell they came with a total sense of gratitude that they got to perform another day, and they got one day closer to their performance,” said Schinker. “I think sometimes when we have these experiences, we just assume its a right, that it’s always going to happen, and I think in March, when everything shut down the music kids in particular, learned ‘Oh, i need to take every musical opportunity I can, and get everything out of it I can, because it might be the last one I have,” said Schinker.
“I think there was a sense of gratitude and a sense of just wanting everyone to stay safe. They learned that every moment should not be taken for granted, and that was a big positive with this.”
The live production of the musical was only offered to a limited number of people, however, the musical was recorded and will be available for purchase at a later date. More information regarding virtual viewing of the musical will be available soon.