Author: Matthew Chellis

Program director’s note: ‘Urinetown’

In deciding what musical we would produce this fall here at CU Boulder, we considered several different shows that would be a good fit not only for our students but also as a timely commentary on current events.

“Urinetown” was a top choice for its satirical approach to several social issues that continues to resonate today. When “Urinetown” opened on Broadway 20 years ago, it was at the forefront of several works of art intended to provoke discussions about the abuse of natural resources (such as water) and about how big business controls much of those resources. Articles are published every day about how climate change has impacted vital water sources like the Colorado River, among others, for the western half of the country. We hope that our performance will inspire meaningful conversations about how we can begin to reverse our abuse of our natural waterways here in the United States.

Another challenge that came to light during our exploration of “Urinetown” was the necessity of looking at the material and the realization that some of the musical numbers in the show would need to be reworked due to the use of appropriated musical language in one or more of the show’s more spirited scenes. For example, “Run Freedom Run” is a satirical song using Black Gospel themes in a pastiche format; this pastiche idea needs to be examined and filtered through a different lens now, 20 years later, to ensure that we are not appropriating Black Gospel culture in our portrayal of a particular musical number. To this end, we had some thought-provoking discussions with the entire cast and production team about how we can be on guard to recognize moments in theatre works that may need reexamination.

I am so proud of our BM/MT degree program here at CU Boulder and the thoughtful young singing actors that who are a part of the program. Thank you to everyone who continues to support us and our ongoing work here at CU.

Matthew Chellis, Director BM/MT Program