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Thousand Islands Central staging ‘smart, funny’ ‘Urinetown’

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CLAYTON — When high school senior Connor J. Briggs heard about the selection for this year’s musical at Thousand Islands Central School, his reaction was one shared by many in the community.

“The name was really unusual. It sounded weird, but at the same time I was very optimistic,” Connor said. “I said, ‘Nah, Mrs. Wiley would not pick a bad musical.’”

Katherine Wiley, high school music teacher and show director, said once people get beyond the name of the musical, “Urinetown,” they will have an opportunity to see a show that has been praised for its humorous story of greed, corruption, love and revolution. It will be staged Friday and Saturday in the auditorium at Thousand Islands Central School.

“I just want people to come because it’s a smart, funny show with wonderful music,” Mrs. Wiley said. “It makes fun of itself. It’s not anything to be offended by.”

The musical was written by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, who faced years of rejection by producers — with some unable to get past the title. Finally, in 1999, the duo received an encouraging nod from organizers of the New York International Fringe Festival, which staged it during its annual run. It then moved to off-Braodway and then to Broadway, where it ran for 965 performances from 2001 to 2004. It won the 2002 Tony Award for best musical.

Critics seized on the play’s liveliness and originality — and how it spits in the face of theatrical conventions. The show sends up a number of big-time musicals, such as “Les Miserables” and “West Side Story.”

The musical’s setting is in a Gotham-like city where a water shortage caused by a 20-year drought has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single “malevolent” company that profits by charging admission to the facilities. A hero decides he’s had enough and plans a revolution to lead all to freedom.

“That is basically what the show is about,” Mrs. Wiley said. “If you don’t have water, you’re not going to live.”

Senior Noelle M. Flynt, who plays Hope Cladwell, the daughter of the water company’s owner, said she saw the show last year when a friend of hers was in it at North Rose-Wolcott Central School in Wayne County.

“When Mrs. Wiley suggested it, I was really excited because it’s such a great show,” Noelle said. “Even though the title is sort of strange, It’s such a funny musical and I hope everyone comes to see it to give it a chance.”

Mrs. Wiley said one of the difficult tasks in directing the show is trying to prevent the students from breaking out in laughter.

“It fits our kids; they love to be funny,” she said. “This is an opportunity for them to be funny but not in a slapsticky kind of way.”

Connor, who plays Caldwell B. Cladwell, the “evil president and owner” of the Urine Good Co., said he enjoyed performing in past musicals at the school such as “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Damn Yankees.”

“They were really good, but this one has something about it,” he said. “It has kick to it.”

He added, “For such a serious story, it has a lot of funny moments.”

"It's forcing us to be better actors because the roles are so far from high school students — agewise for some people, they’ve got to act younger, and for others it’s so crazy and funny,” said Maria L. Cipullo, who plays Little Becky Two Shoes.

Senior Kevin E. O’Connor, who plays Mr. McQueen, said he’s enjoying the sarcasm in the musical.

“We’re having a blast with it,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best plays we’ve done. It’s a good one to finish off my last year here.”

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The cast of "Urinetown” at Thousand Islands Central School District:

Michael Campany as officer Lockstock, Darien Frederick as Penelope Pennywise, Erick Lange as Bobby Strong, Maura Warren as Little Sally, Kevin O’Connor as Mr. McQueen, Mariah Turner as Senator Fipp, Kody Bleam as officer Barrel, Noelle Flynt as Hope Cladwell, Duncan Richardson as Old Man Strong and Hot Blades Harry, Tiger Chapman as Tiny Tom and Dr. Billeaux, Alexi Cassidy as Soupy Sue and company executive, Maria Cipullo as Little Becky Two Shoes and Mr. Cladwell’s secretary, Bradley Balk as Bobby the Stockfish, Connor Briggs as Caldwell B. Cladwell, Alicia Fitzsimmons as the old woman and Josephine Strong, Allison Jones as Mrs. Millenium, Ashlee Bourquin as company executive and Devon Crawford as Billy Boy Bill.

Rebels: Ashlee Bouquin, Sabrina Burns, Allison Jones, Emily Locke and Natalie Reff.

Cops: Isabella Baird, Andrea Bourquin, Alexi Cassidy, Tiger Chapman, Darien Frederick, Allison Jones, Sara Lantier and Maura Warren.

Chorus: Isabella Baird, Hayley Dolbow, Abigail Fearnside, Hannah Finley, Jessica Knapp, Sara Lantier, Beth Locke and Olivia Poventud.

Joy Rhinebeck is co-director. Vocal direction is by Kathryn Ingerson and choreography by Eileen Hauck.


The Details
WHAT: Thousand Islands Central School District’s high school and middle school staging of “Urine-town”
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Thousand Islands Central School auditorium, 8481 County Route 9, Clayton.
COST: $7 for general admission and $5 for senior citizens.
OF NOTE: A Friday night dinner for senior citizens begins at 5:30. Cost is $5 in addition to ticket price. Busing will be provided from Clayton and Cape Vincent. Call the school district at 686-5594 to make reservations.
OF NOTE: A portion of all ticket proceeds will be donated to WaterAid, a charity that promotes and secures poor people’s rights and access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.
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