You definitely need to go to PlayMakers this week, not only to see Tony award-winning “Urinetown: The Musical,” but also to see the Tony award-winning actors and actresses of the future.   

“Urinetown” – winner of the Tony award for Best Musical — is an edgy, witty satire about a society in which 20 years of drought have led to truly draconian water restrictions, like laws requiring people to relieve themselves in public, pay-per-use facilities.  People who don’t obey the law are arrested and treated like criminals. 

It is a tightly-controlled society.  But what if the people rebel?   Ah, now you have what the New York Times calls “simply the most gripping and galvanizing theater experience in town, equal parts visceral entertainment jolt and lingering provocation.”

PlayMaker’s performance of “Urinetown” this week (July 19-22) will star up-and-coming actors from PlayMaker’s Summer Youth Conservatory.  The conservatory provides talented high school students the opportunity to work with professional directors, choreographers, and musical directors. 

I went to see a rehearsal of “Urinetown” this week and was impressed with the quality of the acting and singing, as well as with the grittiness and intrigue of the plotline. 

CHHS senior Adrian Thornburg, as Bobby Strong
in PlayMakers Summer Youth Conservatory production of Urinetown

“‘Urinetown’ is easily one of my favorite plays,” says Adrian Thornburg, a Chapel Hill High School senior who plays romantic lead Bobby Strong.  “The music is great, the play is hilarious, but there’s so much more to it, that you’ll be thinking about it for weeks after curtain.”  Thornburg starred in CHHS’ production of “Hairspray” this spring and directed CHHS’ production of “The Fantasticks” in February.

Co-director Julie Fishell, a longtime PlayMakers acting company member and UNC dramatic art professor, looks forward to working with the Youth Conservatory each summer.  “I consider this artistic evangelism, in the best of all senses,” Fishell notes.  “We give aspiring student actors the experience of working in a professional theater.”

“It’s great to get a peek into the professional world and see how things are run,” agrees Laura Bevington, an East Chapel Hill High School junior who plays heroine Hope Cladwell.  Bevington is getting to be a veteran of musicals despite her young age. Prior to starring in “Urinetown,” Bevington performed in East Chapel Hill High School’s productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Chicago.”

Students in the production describe their experience preparing for this show as “exciting… intense… hard… fun… exhausting… so worth it… awesome.”  They applaud the co-directors, Fishell and Jeff Stanley, “They are such talented directors that they make us look talented!”  Well, as someone who sat and watched the rehearsal, it was clear that talent filled the theater.

Fishell and Stanley do not just direct the students; they engage them in a collaborative process to help bring out the best performance in each student.  “If you just dictate,” explains Stanley, “they get bored, they switch off.  Our job is to foster their creativity without being didactic.”  As a result, Stanley notes, “the students have endless amounts of ideas.”

Well, the ideas have paid off because my 10-year-old daughter and I were riveted by the students’ performance.  We will be there on opening night, this Thursday, July 19th.  If you cannot join us on opening night, be sure to see the performance before the curtain goes down after the last show on Sunday, July 22nd.  Tickets are only $15 for the general public and $10 for students/children.  You can also purchase them online here.

You “gotta go.”  And don’t worry, the bathroom facilities at the Paul Green Theater are free.