“Urine” For A Good Time with Urinetown


Photo courtesy of Chamblee Onstage.

Lucy Adelman stars as “Ms. Pennywise” in Urinetown the Musical, alongside the ensemble members of the Rebel Poor.

This Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 7-9, Chamblee Onstage is premiering their musical, “Urinetown.” The whole process, from auditions to rehearsals to set design, has taken months, and Chamblee High School’s theater department is excited to showcase their hard work. About a hundred students have worked in an almost entirely student-led crew in preparation for the production.

“We have a cast, an orchestra pit, and crew, all […] students, and all three groups have done a phenomenal job of coming together to make the show a success,” said theater director Linda Lirette.


Dedicated Student Staff and Long Rehearsal Process

It has taken a lot of effort to get the show ready for performance.

“We are putting in a lot of hours,” said Lirette. “Every minute that you see on stage is at least an hour of rehearsal that is represented there, so you are looking at probably 180 hours or more of work that we’ve spent doing – not only just in rehearsals but in preparation for those rehearsals to be ready for them.”

Cast member and sophomore Katherine Mogilski can attest to the amount of dedication the students have put in.

“Well, we’ve been rehearsing for months since the first day of school of the second semester,” said Mogilski. “We’re here almost every day and we use every class period minute and every rehearsal minute to make the show as good as it can be. And even when we had fallbacks, we’re pushing through.”

Students were selected through an audition process, which sophomore Hope Collins went through.

“For auditions what we do is you go in and you sing a pre-prepared song from the show, only a few seconds, and then you have the dance audition. After that, you see if you get a callback. If you do, you go and read from the script and such,” said Collins.

The process of producing the show has taken many months.

“We began thinking about what show we would do last spring and decided over the summer,” said Lirette. “We held informational meetings in the fall semester and we held auditions and we cast the show all before we left for winter break.”

This process reached a new stage in January.

“We began rehearsing in the first week of January,” said Lirette. “Before rehearsal, there’s a whole process that takes place in terms of the design team and making a lot of decisions about the way that we want to do things. But once we dive into rehearsals, it’s about executing that vision and trying different things to see what works, so we’ve been doing that since January and here we are.”


Urinetown: What is it and why this show?

This year’s program, “Urinetown,” deals with a dystopian society.

“’Urinetown’ takes place in a world that is twenty years in a drought which has made it impossible for people to use private toilets,” said Lirette. “The toilets are controlled by a greedy corporation called UGC, Urine Good Company, or ‘You’re in good company.’”

This hits the town’s poverty especially hard.

“The poor are downtrodden,” said Lirette. “They only get to go to the bathroom three times a day because they can’t afford to go more than that.”

Eventually, the corruption of the company causes a rebellion.

“When the fees to use the bathroom are raised by the legislature and there’s a revolution that there’s corruption between the legislature and Urine Good Company, […] a worker at one of the poorest urinals in town who’s recently met someone who’s inspired him, he leads a rebellion,” said Lirette. “And it gets interesting from there.”

Cast member junior Ellie Gies wants people to understand that the play is about more than what might initially seem a confusing premise.

“Urinetown is about more than pee,” said Gies. “It’s a really funny show and very different from anything we’ve done before and I think people would really enjoy the show.”

Lirette chose this particular musical because of the versatility it offers her students and the wide range of abilities it develops.

“I’ve loved this show since it was on Broadway; in part because it is so quirky and unconventional but the music is also absolutely gorgeous,” said Lirette. “It has a sung-through quality through a lot of it, but it also challenges us with some scenes that have some depth to them and characters are a lot of fun to play.”

Lirette sees the characters as great fits for her students.

“[The characters] are at a really great level for the cast we currently have to dig into to really develop their acting ability and their ability to tell the story through song, and I thought that the dancing in this is just the right amount to enrich the story rather than just be a dance recital,” said Lirette.


This Year’s Cast and Crew

This year’s musical is featuring lots of eager talent like junior Ellie Gies and sophomore Hope Collins.

“I participated in this year’s musical because I have always been into theater. [My friends and I] did the musical our freshman year, so it was a great way to bond and I have also made really great friends through the program so I’m always excited to be a part of the production,” said Gies.

Collins was drawn to the musical for similar reasons.

“I decided to do this show because I did ‘Guys and Dolls’ last year and I had the time of my life so it wasn’t even a question if I was going to audition or not,” said Collins.

Junior Ellie Gies has participated in theater throughout her life, so auditioning for the musical was a natural choice.

“I have been in a play before. I have acted ever since I was little and have done all our school productions,” said Gies.

The students involved in the musical have a variety of roles featured throughout the production.

“I play Ms. Millennium who is the secretary to Mr. Caldwell. It is a really fun role to play and has helped me a lot to grow as an actor,” said Gies.


The Hard Work of the Backstage Crew

For the production to run smoothly, there is more than first meets the eye. There are people backstage, making sure everything goes according to plan. Senior Natalia Carlson has an important role in the production.

I am the head stage manager and the lighting designer for the show, so I do all the pre-work stuff, I help with auditions and I plan rehearsals,” said Carlson.

Carlson’s roles include lighting designing and backstage management.

“Right now, I’m in the lighting design portion, so we just started in the auditorium, so I’m working up in the booth and designing all the lights,” said Carlson. “Then, when we actually perform the show, I’ll be backstage and I’ll be calling the cues and make sure everybody is where they need to be when they need to be there.”

A large and dedicated stage crew puts a lot of effort into the production.

“The students that work backstage do everything,” said Carlson. “We have a completely student-led crew this year. We have a couple of parents who are helping out with the set but for the actual show, our costumes department, our hair, and makeup, lights, sound, set crew [and] run crew is all student-led. So, people will be backstage doing the costume changes, the hair and makeup changes […] and I have people in the booth who will be running lights, and there will be people switching microphones and mixing sound and [operating spotlights] as well.”

Mogilski explains that roles are flexible and everybody works to achieve whatever needs to be achieved.

“Everyone has to work everywhere. Julia Johnson is a stage manager. She is currently painting props and usually, that’s not something you would do, so we all just have to do everything,” said Mogilski. “And as you can see, our set isn’t quite done and the opening night is Thursday. It is Tuesday [right now]. But they’re always working and there are always parents here to help build and paint and everything, and the cast is always on stage.”


How the Musical Extends to Today’s Society

Throughout the production process, the musical has taught the students important lessons and caused them to ask questions about the world around them.

“We’ve had some great discussions about rights and privileges,” said Lirette. “There’s a song in the show called ‘It’s a Privilege to Pee’ and in the course of doing our dramaturgy, which is our research for the show that we do, we learned that in fact worldwide, 2.5 billion people on our planet don’t have regular access to toilets or any kind of sanitary way to eliminate their waste. And this kills 1.4 million children each year.”

Students also considered if this scenario could extend to the future of our world.

“Because this was the result of a drought in the world of Urinetown, could something like this happen in our world? With climate change speculations as they are, is something like this a real threat to us? There are water shortages expected by 2025,” said Lirette.

This also relates to a more recent current event.

“We also looked at the water crisis in Flint, Michigan because that was based around water and the water being poisoned by lead, but there were corporations involved in making something that wasn’t for the good of the people take place,” said Lirette.


Student Excitement in Anticipation of the Premiere

Carlson is enthusiastic about her last musical at Chamblee High School.

“I think it’s going to be a really good show,” said Carlson. “The lighting designer in me is really excited to see the lighting pull together. We bought a bunch of new LED lights this year, so it looks really cool and I’m really excited to be able to see that and to see everyone work together and all of that. It’s going to be really fun.”

Lirette always looks forward to seeing the students’ hard work pay off.

“I really like that feeling when I sit down and it all comes together,” said Lirette on Tuesday. “We’ve still got two big rehearsals left before opening night and that’s just the point where you’re usually going, ‘Oh gosh, how is this all going to happen?’ But I’ve done enough shows now as a director and as a performer that it will. And to see that take place is going to be a really good feeling.”

Mogilski is excited to be able to show her passion for theater on stage.

I can’t wait to see everyone’s faces because this is my first musical at the school, and all of this is just everything I love to do, and even though we’re not where we’re supposed to be, the musical is going to be great and I can’t wait to let everyone see it and get the message,” said Mogilski. “The show is so great, the music is great and everyone is going to be inspired by it.”