Musicals: Seussical and Urinetown

Blackfriars Theatre in Rochester, NY

seussicalMy wife and I continue on our parade of attending musicals. On July 24, we went to Rochester to see Seussical, the Musical at the Blackfriars Theatre.

The program, one of those online-only items that are increasingly common in venues (and also restaurants), notes the massive initial failure of Seussical. “After an initial run in Boston to solidify the evolving script, Seussical premiered on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 30, 2000, and received almost universally negative reviews… As a result, Seussical closed after 198 performances, and its estimated financial losses of eleven million dollars make it one of the worst financial flops in Broadway history.”

As a Seuss fan and casual follower of Broadway goings-on, I remember much of this. “And yet, in the most Seuss-like of developments, Seussical, over the past few decades, has developed a long life in frequent productions in schools and theatres throughout the country since the rights became available in 2004… The story of Seussical could easily be one of Seuss’ own titles. His books are replete with characters that refuse to give up on their goals and remain steadfast in the presence of enduring obstacles.”

We really enjoyed this production of high school and college kids. Now, we drove 230 miles because our niece Alexa was in it as part of a trio who would have given The Shangri-Las pop group a run for their money. Ireland Fernandez-Cosgrove starred as The Cat In The Hat, and she was very good, as was the whole ensemble. But I must mention Mason Morrison, who played Jojo. If he chooses to pursue theater or music, he’s likely to be a star by 2037; he turned ten the week after we saw him.

Also, set designer Abigail Manard painted not just the set but about 95% of the Seussian walls. The photo does not do it justice.

Water shortage

In many ways, Urinetown, which my family saw at the Mac-Hadyn Theatre in Chatham, NY in mid-July, is the opposite of Seussical. It’s a comedic musical that “satirizes the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and municipal politics.” It also takes on the musical as a form. In 2002, it won three Tonys, including Best Book Of A Musical (Greg Kotis) and Best Original Musical Score (Mark Hollmann and Kotis), and was nominated seven times.

The story isn’t as far-fetched as it might have been a couple of decades ago. “A twenty-year drought has caused a terrible water shortage, making private toilets unthinkable. All restroom activities are done in public toilets controlled by a megacorporation called ‘Urine Good Company’ (or UGC). To control water consumption, people have to pay to use the amenities.”

On one hand, it is quite funny, occasionally corny. This review is dead-on. “Audiences will relish the return of favorite Gabe Belyeu in a vocal role as Officer Lockstock, the narrator of the piece and Keeper of the Pee-ce in ‘Urinetown, the musical…not Urinetown, the place’, as he repeatedly takes pains to distinguish between the two.” The rest of the cast of young adults is excellent as well.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “Musicals: Seussical and Urinetown”

  1. Seussical sounds delightful. I’m glad it got to the stages it needed. And yes, I can imagine Theodore Giesel (sp?) would be proud of its evolution to schools. A nice place to take your kids as well, and affordable for all of us who bought the books over the years.

    I have to admit, I have never seen Urinetown because the title just turns me off. I hate the word “urine,” no idea why, it’s just a word that irks me.

    Hadestown, on the other hand, I would love to see. My dear friend Christopher saw it on Broadway and was enthusiastic. I have heard Anais Mitchell’s original concept album and like that music very much, although rather than have a Black performer as the “showrunner” of Hadestown (Andre DeShields did it on Broadway), the original album had a white singer who was channeling Tom Waits pretty directly. But the song “Wedding” is worth a listen:
    https://youtu.be/4TRiglxAjJE

  2. We used to have season tickets to the Broadway in Birmingham series and we saw Urinetown years ago. I remember thinking it was such an odd musical!

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