Carleton University’s Sock N Buskin Keeps it Simple With Urinetown

Musicals are always a risk for university theatre companies. The casts are huge and finding people who can sing, act and dance is always challenging. I was curious to see if Sock N Buskin’s production of Urinetown (at Carleton University) would live up to the challenge. I’m very pleased to report that director Matt Minter and the Sock N Buskin theatre company (in association with Erudite theatre) totally pulled this production off. Urinetown is a lot of fun to watch and everyone in the cast is clearly having a good time.

The original production of Urinetown (music and lyrics by Greg Koktis, book and Lyrics by Mark Hollman) is a well known Fringe success story. The show premiered at the New York Fringe Festival, then it went on to be produced Off Broadway, eventually making it to Broadway itself– Not bad for a little Fringe show.

Koktis and Hollman’s musical tells the story of a world in drought. The water shortage is so bad that in an effort to conserve water a small town has chosen to charge people to use privately run “amenities”. Any other means to relieve oneself is punished by shipment off to “Urinetown”. People sent there are never heard from again. The play is satyrical examination of capitalism and socialism in times of scarcity (with lots of catchy song and dance numbers). Hollman and Koktis script is quite funny and pokes fun at the musical genre itself while delivering its political satire.

In my opinion, the script is a little bit repetitive with its gags and probably would be more effective if it was a little bit shorter. I wonder if the original Fringe production was as long as the Broadway version? Or if Hollman and Koktis felt the need to stretch it a bit; nevertheless, Urinetown was unquestionably a roaring commercial success.

Director Matt Minter and Sock N’ Buskin have done marvelous job with this one and the secret to their success is they have kept it simple. The set design is minimal but highly functional and the dance numbers are choreographed into simple movements with a few highlights. For example, Tim Oberholzer (Officer Lockstock) and Dave Rowan (Officer Barrel) have to be complemented for their billy club juggling. Trust me. It’s well worth seeing!

The cast is quite strong all around, but on Friday evening I felt that Ryan Anderson (Caldwell B. Cladwell), Tyler McClure (Bobby Strong) and Julia Walmsley (Hope Cladwell) stood out. Also, all the actors in the chorus are clearly committed to their roles. The audience was onside all the way with this one and definitely having a good time.

In short, this is fantastic university/community theatre. Go check it out!

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3 responses to “Carleton University’s Sock N Buskin Keeps it Simple With Urinetown

  1. nadinethornhill

    Koktis’ wife Ayun Halliday is one of my favourite authors. I’ve been reading the books, articles and columns which chronicle her family life years. She’s written quite a bit about hitting the worldwide Fringe circuit with Greg and their kids. Every time I hear about Urinetown I feel as though someone I know has made it big.

  2. Thanks for the link Sterling.

    Nadine: I’ll have to check out Ayun’s work. I’ve never read her.

    Thanks to both of you for commenting.

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