Posts Tagged ‘underground productions

10
Sep
14

Adding Machine: A Musical

 

Adding Machine: A Musical

Underground Productions

UQ Schonell Theatre

September 4 – 13 2014

 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

 

Adaptation by Joshua Schmidt. Libretto by Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt

 

addingmachine

 

Last week I attended Underground Productions’ Australian Premiere of Adding Machine: A Musical at the Schonell Theatre, UQ.

 

A musical adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1923 expressionist play, Adding Machine, the musical is a challenging undertaking through which the cast of Underground Productions plummets fearlessly. The score is as difficult as it is surreal.

 

Adding Machine centres around the devastation of protagonist Mr. Zero when he is replaced by an Adding Machine and ‘let go’ from his job as a Bookkeeper after 25 years dedicated service. A distraught Zero kills his boss in a fit of outrage and consequently, is charged and executed.

 

This is not a musical that will leave you humming its chorus on the way home, rather my companion and I were left feeling rather pained and exhausted following this show. It is it seems a musical experience more like a contemporary opera, notably poignant, brave and complex but as challenging to the audience and listener as I’m sure it is to the cast.

 

Not that Adding Machine is a stranger to accolades, as my companion pointed out; it has been awarded multiple Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk awards, and had countless rave reviews.

 

But this musical is definitely not for everyone. It is refreshing to see a small theatre company tackling something different to the norm, the production obviously cracks the mould of a lot of traditional musical theatre dominating small Australian stages.

 

The score is the biggest hurdle to pass and is as mechanical as the plot that surrounds it. If you can move past the rhythmic complexity and dissonance, it could be seen almost as a textured nightmarish soundscape, which (from that angle) makes it more digestible. The cacophonous intensity does continuously grate the nerves however, although it is occasionally used to great effect, such as during an office scene in which a chant builds into a polyrhythmic moment that showcases some great ensemble singing and choreography.

 

The cast itself boasts some strong voices; Chris Kellet in the role of Mr. Zero is the perfect balance of hopeless and hopeful. However frustrating his plight, hints of a fine baritone voice made me yearn for a lyrical moment.

 

Playing opposite, Gabriella Flowers in the role of wife Mrs. Zero balances the demands of a vocally challenging role with a strong portrayal of the unrelenting socialite. Her soprano flits between ringing and reedy, her unyielding characterisation serving to antagonise her husband and the audience alike.

 

Taylor Davidson as the lovesick Daisy Devore brings a softer characterisation, her smoky mezzo enjoying some of the more melodic moments.

 

Mischa Reinthal in multiple roles as the fated Boss, Fixer and Charles is suitably commanding both in voice and physicality, while Louis Peake as Shrdlu adds some comic moments and melodic lines that are welcome changes of pace.

 

The small ensemble are on the whole strong vocally, although some issues with balance caused a few tuning issues at times. With such a score however, they are to be commended and it is clear Musical Director Benedict Braxton- Smith has put the cast through their paces.

 

The design elements of the production add a lot of interest and are also worth a mention. A revolving set adds to the mechanical feel of the production and visually mimics the feel of the score.

 

If I’m completely honest I can’t say I loved this production. While I’m all for theatre that moves beyond traditional conventions (even with some interesting musical moments and strong performers), I have to say I still found Adding Machine indigestible and musically pretentious. Obviously given the accolades the show has received this is not everyone’s opinion but ultimately it’s not for me. Underground Productions is full of talent onstage and off, that much is clear, but next time I’ll take a showtune.

 

 

04
Oct
13

Autobahn

 

Autobahn 

Underground Productions

Schonell Theatre

1 October – 4 October 2013

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

I’d never seen a production at the Schonell theatre until Tuesday night. Yes, I’d been there years ago when I attended college and there were awards or functions involved. I’ve even sat in a lecture or two in this building where it was close to impossible not to fall asleep in those soft, comfortable chairs. But to see Neil LaBute’s Autobahn staged by Underground Productions here was an entirely different experience.

 

You won’t have to worry about falling asleep is those damn comfy seats because you will be lead onto the stage where a small selection of chairs has been set up. Then you should fasten your seatbelt because the ride is winding, funny, sad, and vigorous at times.

 

Autobahn

 

My only lament is the arrangement of the seating. If you’re not in the front row you’re not going to see the show. It reminds me of when we were small children in the car playing Corners. You leaned far left when the car swung a corner, then far right when the car turned again, your parents yelled “Stop that now, don’t make me turn this car around,” and we cried “Yes! Yes! Turn the car around again!” That’s what it’s like sitting in the rows of the audience, leaning this way and that trying to get any view at all of the actors.

 

But for what was seen it was certainly an entertaining show. The cast, with Director, Meg Ham, had three weeks to put this production together and you can see on their faces each one of them want to say, “Come look what we have to show you!” And it is impressive how the mood shifts from scene to scene. Each of these vignettes has a completely different aura to the last but the transition is seamless.

 

I’m always curious about these collaboration shows…who owns what? Is there a copyright to each line, each character’s twitch or little habit? When the cast performs the show does one of them beam inward just a little, knowing that was their line, that’s their little signature on the show? Or is it a soviet union of actors’ creations, all for one and one for all. Everyone owns a little piece of the play and everyone does a little bit of the work? You can never truly know unless you’re there, inside the messy process of creating something yourself.

 

Autobahn seems to be something like that, a hybrid of the two. It’s an invisible car crash of creations. It’s like looking at your side mirrors and not seeing the oncoming car, but seeing a little moment flash by.

 

When you spot one of these minimalist productions that try to breach a new idea don’t hesitate. Flick on your blinkers, turn into the parking lot and see the show.

 

Autobahn

 

01
Oct
13

Giveaway: Win a Double Pass to see Autobahn

 

It’s a giveaway! Hooray!

 

Thanks to the cool cats at Underground Productions, we are giving you the chance to see the opening night TONIGHT at the Schonell Theatre, St Lucia. Just comment below to let us know why you’re looking forward to a night out at the theatre TONIGHT!

Make sure you’re following Underground Productions and XS Entertainment on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Underground Productions presents Autobahn
By Neil LaBute

 

Director: Meg Ham
Assistant Director: Danielle Carney

 

Autobahn is a series of short vignettes that all take place in the front seats of a car.  Through such a simple and free premise, playwright Neil LuBute explores seven scenarios of regular people in extraordinary circumstances.  From breakups to kidnappings to an escape from rehab, the situation is transformed again and again but the setting remains the same – showing us just how significant a short car ride can be, and taking us on a heartbreaking and exhilarating ride.

 

Director Meg Ham seized the opportunity to direct this QUEENSLAND PREMIERE after having been assistant director on Underground Productions’ previous work Bat Boy: The Musical, one of Underground’s biggest and most successful productions ever.  The simultaneously unique yet everyday setting of the piece coupled with LaBute’s bold, idiosyncratic dialogue attracted Meg from the first page.  I was drawn in by that concept of being confined and what conspires when two humans are trapped together; how we seize the opportunity to confront the other because they have nowhere to run.”

 

The cast includes a host of Underground veterans and some talented newcomers fresh off other theatrical projects – including winners of the Short+Sweet Queensland finals, and Meg is thrilled to have secured such a stellar group of young actors.  “The cast is incredible and are some of the hardest working performers I’ve ever had the pleasure or working with. They are thoughtful and honest to their characters and portray each story with a selflessness that you just don’t see very often.”

 

“I hope that you can love this show as much as we do. There is a chapter for everyone so come and share in these stories with us.”

 

Performance Dates:
Tuesday – October 1 at 7:30pm – OPENING NIGHT
Wednesday – October 2 at 7:30pm
Thursday – October 3 at 7:30pm
Friday – October 4 at 1:30pm – MATINEE
Friday – October 4 at 7:30pm – CLOSING NIGHT

 

After the performance on opening night, stick around for free food, drinks and a meet-and-greet with the cast, crew and members of Underground Productions.

 

Location:
The Schonell Theatre
The University of Queensland

St Lucia, 4067

Directions and parking info can be found at: http://www.schonell.com/getting-here

Tickets:


$15 for ADULTS / $12 for STUDENTS / $10 for UNDERGROUND MEMBERS or groups of 10+ Tickets available can be booked online: http://www.trybooking.com/DPIO

 

Remaining tickets will be available at the door but bookings are highly recommended (booking online incurs a $1 fee per ticket).   Be sure you double check your bookings, as we cannot offer refunds.

 

For group bookings, please contact Xanthe at: foh@undergroundproductions.org.au

 

PLEASE NOTE!


The story deals with heavy and mature themes.  The show also contains some strong language so we recommend that audience members be at least 15 years of age.
About Underground Productions:


Underground Productions is the University of Queensland’s resident theatre group.  It has been running (under different names) since the 1970s, with artists such as Geoffrey Rush and Bille Brown beginning their careers with the company.  Since its venue transition to the wonderful 440 seat Schonell Theatre in 2010, Underground has evolved to produce some of Brisbane’s finest theatre, whilst still maintaining its close-knit and fun-loving attitude.  Along with four mainhouse shows each year, Underground Productions provides opportunities for all things theatre, including drama workshops, backstage crew training, arts festivals, and an annual musical.  Underground also strives to showcase original works that the talented Brisbane community offers and provides a thorough sense of fun for both members and audiences alike.

 

03
Sep
13

Bat Boy: the musical!

 

Bat Boy: The Musical

Underground Productions

Schonell Theatre

29 August – 7 September 2013

 

Reviewed by Jennifer Johnston

 

image001

 

No matter what you read up on regarding the story line behind a theatrical production/musical show, nothing prepares you for the story as it unfolds. Of course in reviews and media releases the plots and crucial scenes are not usually revealed, as it would ruin the outcome for the viewer. Thankfully, the PR released on Bat Boy: The Musical, which opened at Queensland University’s Schonell Theatre last week, had kept quiet about its plot and central characters.

 

All I knew beforehand was this was a dark tale of a half-boy half-bat discovered living in a cave in West Virginia. Based loosely on a story reported in 1992 in the Weekly World News about the discovery of a half boy / bat like creature, writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming wrote a stage adaptation. Laurence O’Keefe, an American composer/lyricist is responsible for the music and lyrics.  In 1997 in Los Angeles Bat Boy: The Musical enjoyed its world premiere.

 

The show has played  New York’s off-Broadway (2001) and London’s West End (2004).  Underground Productions (Qld Uni’s resident theatre group) present the Queensland premiere of the production, which opened on Friday August 30 and closes on Saturday September 7.

 

We were pre-warned of the many dark and mature themes and they were played out with dramatic effect. No I will not share them here, but suffice to say, my friend and I both jumped a few times and screwed up our faces during a couple of scenes, slapstick and camp horror themes affecting us.

 

Think of a boy who is half bat and half human and your mind conjures up images.  Patrick Aitken as Edgar, (the Bat Boy) with the help of some classic vampire inspired make-up (including fangs) was pretty convincing in the opening scene as a helpless and sullen bat, who (which?) somehow ended up in an underground cave, lost to society.

 

I often have an issue when directors choose an American based show using an Australian cast, as Aussie actors seem to struggle with maintaining an American accent. I almost wish our actors could by-pass the fake accent.  The opening scene with the family members who stumbled upon the cave shouted out in very strong interpretations of an accent, not always maintained throughout the night. No biggie.  But I feel Director Alex could make a decision there – yes or no to the accent.

 

Our Bat friend is removed from his underground cave to a small community, where we meet the Parker Family – Shelley (daughter) played by Alice England and Meredith (mother) Arlie McCormick. They take Bat Boy in for “observation.”  We  sense this is bible-belt, with the use of subtle humour and religious commentary peppering the dialogue.  Shelley and boyfriend Rick Taylor (played by John Vizcay-Wilson) entertain the audience with a slick rap number and Shelley manages to throw in a couple of tweaking moves – a topical effect.

 

The scenes jump from quiet dialogues to full cast songs. Full credit goes to Choreographer Bonnie Mullins. We see interesting use of dance and movement.  In one scene at the Slaughterhouse the townspeople of Hope Falls gathered to express concern at the lack of beasts “ready” for killing and sale.  The Black Ninjas (best way to describe the cast dressed and masked in black) provided interesting moments as they flowed in and out of scenes in silent “stealth mode.” Dressed no doubt to support the darker themes of the story.

 

As Director Alex Feifers said, “I often class this as gothic humour, between religion and ‘adult themes’, the dark but ever present humour shows throughout the production.”

 

Sheriff Reynolds (Alex Smith) dressed in a style reminiscent of Larry Wilcox from Chips – (an old TV show – maybe before some of your time – google him you will agree!) is the local law enforcement.  He finds himself caught up in the division between what is right in the town and the sentiment against the deaths, which Bat Boy is allegedly responsible for.  Up for re-election (yes topical again), he wants to do the right thing by his voters.  Not often do we see Sheriff Reynolds lift his mirrored sunglasses but we can guess where his allegiance lies.

 

Dr Parker (Chris Story) – Dad to Shelley and wife to Meredith – laments the lost love he and his wife no longer feel.  His jealousy prompts him into dastardly acts and we see a side of him that is evil and dark.

 

The opening scene after interval takes us to the gospel church where Reverend Hightower (Joshua Daveta) leads his congregation in some high powered gospel singing and spiritual healing.  I sense Joshua is in his element in this role (in another life he is lead singer in SOUL SIMPLE). Thanks to the pumping music from MD Nick Hollamby and band, the audience with whoops and calls were  jumping in their seats for this song.

 

There was plenty of parody and slap-stick, Shelley asks Bat Boy,  “How did you find me in the cave? “ Ahhh… I seem to see well in the dark,” he replies.  There is irony, sexual tension, love and jealousy. Mix this in with themes dealing with the horrors of humanity.  The townsfolk at one stage are crying out to Edgar to “Hold me Bat Boy, touch me Bat Boy, make it all turn out alright.” These are deep, short-lived demands, as they quickly turn on Bat Boy and demand his death.

 

Elements from the Vampire inspired fantasies (stirred along by Stephanie Meyers)  are played out in this production – surprisingly I thought – but maybe that is meant to add to the drama and mysterious allure of a Bat Boy.

 

My personal picks in performances were by Meredith, Bat Boy and Reverend Hightower. Better not forget a crowd pleasing moment where a six-packed adorned greek-god like fellow enters stage complete with horns, singing about “free-love”.  The audience went wild for him (sorry I could not locate his name in program).

 

This production has it all!

 

Support Underground Productions and fill the 440 seat capacity Schonell Theatre. It’s all about experiencing something different and unexpected.  Bat Boy: The Musical will give you that! And that’s all I will share.

 

21
Aug
13

A Give Away – Win a Double Pass to Bat Boy: the Musical!

Batboy Banner

 

Underground Productions presents the musical comedy hit Bat Boy: The Musical, the hilariously dark tale of a half-boy, half-bat discovered living in a cave, and the obstacles he faces as he tries to integrate into a small, rural town in West Virginia.

 

It’s an explosively entertaining take on how we fear the strange and unknown, set against a score that mixes rock with contemporary musical theatre.  With elements of satire, comedy-horror, irony and forbidden love, Bat Boy is a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining work that has garnered massive critical and public acclaim, including the Outer Critics Circle Award for best off-Broadway musical in 2001.

 

Because we loved Underground’s Urinetown so much we want you to see Bat Boy: The Musical so we’re giving away a double pass to the opening night performance on Friday August 30 at The Schonell! Just tell us in the comments section below the best thing about Brisbane theatre!

 

BatBoyFlyer1-Front

 

Matilda Award nominee Alex Feifers jumped at the opportunity to direct this exciting, yet challenging show.  Undaunted by the imposing text, she says “The real challenge is perfectly balancing the dark and dramatic themes with the comedic irony and wit.  But backed by such a strong creative team and crew, not to mention the stellar cast, I have a big feeling this is going to be the highlight of the local Brisbane musical theatre scene this year.”

 

By the writer of the recent hit Legally Blonde The Musical, Underground Productions couldn’t be more proud and excited to present the Queensland premiere of Bat Boy: The Musical, running from August 29 until September 7.

 

BatBoyFlyer2-Front

 

About Underground Productions:

Underground Productions is the University of Queensland’s resident theatre group.  It has been running (under different names) since the 1970′s, with artists such as Geoffrey Rush and Bille Brown beginning their careers with the company.  Since its venue transition to the wonderful 440 seat Schonell Theatre in 2010, Underground has evolved to produce some of Brisbane’s finest theatre, whilst still maintaining its close-knit and fun-loving attitude.  Along with 4 mainhouse shows a year, Underground Productions provides opportunities for all things theatre, including drama workshops, backstage crew training, arts festivals, and an annual musical.

 

Underground also strives to showcase original works that the talented Brisbane community has to offer and provides a thorough sense of fun to both members and audiences alike.

 

N.B. The story deals with many dark and mature themes.  Although respectfully handled and often punctuated with humour, we nevertheless recommend that audience member be at least 15 years of age.  There will also be strobe lighting effects, and loud sound effects and music.

 

Bat Boy Official Poster 1


Performance Dates:

Thursday – August 29 at 7:30pm – PREVIEW NIGHT1

Friday – August 30 at 7:30pm – OPENING NIGHT*

Saturday – August 31 at 2:30pm

Saturday – August 31 at 7:30pm

Tuesday – September 3 at 7:30pm – STUDENT SPECIALS2

Wednesday – September 4 at 7:30pm

Thursday – September 5 at 7:30pm

Friday – September 6 at 7:30pm

Saturday – September 7 at 2:30pm

Saturday – September 7 at 7:30pm – CLOSING NIGHT

*After the opening night performance, stick around for free food, drinks, live music and a meet-and-greet with the cast and crew

 

Tickets:
$20 for adults / $18 for students / $15 for Underground Members
Tickets available from July 15 and can be booked online: http://www.undergroundproductions.org.au

 

1 $18/15/12 tickets for adults/students/members on Preview Night

 

2Students and members pay only $12 on Student Night

 

For your chance to win the opening night Double Pass follow this blog, like us on Facebook and tell us in the comments section below what you love about Brisbane theatre! Winner will be notified via email and announced on our Facebook page.

 

03
Sep
12

Urinetown

Urinetown

Urinetown

Underground Productions

UQ Schonell Theatre

30th August – 8th September 2012

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

WARNING: This review contains excessive toilet puns that may infurinate some readers. 

It’s not everyday your ticket to a musical theatre show comes nested in a neatly folded wad of toilet paper. But then again this is no ordinary musical; this is Urinetown…The Musical.

Presented by Underground Productions, Urinetown tells the story of a community plagued by drought and governed by strict laws that ban the use of private bathrooms; forcing the ever-suffering people to pay for the “privilege to pee” or be banished forever to Urinetown, a place from which ominously, no-one returns. Enter a rebellious latrine manager and a romance or two with a gal from the other side of the urinal and you have an uprising of bladder-busting proportions!

The self- referential style of the work echoes the style of Brecht and Weill, and cheekily titters at musical theatre clichés with some less than subtle references to popular Broadway (West Side Story, Carousel and Les Mis. to name a few). Director Lauren Ware has delivered an engaging, high energy show that despite being high on the giggle-meter flushes…I mean…fleshes out some poignant messages for our consumer-crazy society from the viewpoint of all involved. But don’t get your knickers in too much of a twist, there are enough spirit fingers and poetic melodrama to keep the mood flowing lightly, after all it is a musical…

Speaking of music, Urinetown is bought to life by Musical Director Matthew Samer, (who after being dragged on the scene by police escort) leads an absolutely ‘kickin’ band and vocally strong cast through what is essentially quite a challenging score. This is a challenge met by each of the performers, as they take on their roles with a fierceness and commitment that is entirely infectious.

Vocally, the standouts for me in this production are the richly voiced James Gauci (as love struck and heroic Bobby Strong) and the tinkling… I mean twinkling soprano of Rhiannon Moushall (as our happy hopeful heroine, Hope Caldwell). The two create a wonderfully comic onstage chemistry and manage to balance character and great singing to a wee…I mean tee 😉

I also enjoyed Kieran Davey in the role of Officer Lockstock. His jaunty and dry narration provided a great sense of grounding to the melodrama onstage and showed great sense of comic timing and sincerity.

John Da Conceicao is wonderfully imposing as the tawdry Caldwell B. Caldwell, head of Urine Good Company, and Xanthe Jones brings a great physicality to the role of the Little Sally, her mischievous demeanor reminiscent of Les Miserable’s Gavroche. Alongside, the entire supporting cast are stellar, producing some wonderful comic and musical moments that keep the pace of the show…whiz-zing along and completely engaging from start to finish.

The supporting ensemble appeared varied in experience, some grabbing my attention a …wee-bit more with the skill of their characterisation, physicality and vocal capabilities, nevertheless the cast offered a collective energy that scooped up the less experienced and presented a united force to be reckoned with. The ensemble moments in the show were the highlight of this production for me; I particularly loved the rousing gospel chorus of Run, Freedom Run that saw the young Bobby comically conducting the impromptu choir. Likewise, mention must be made to the great choreography throughout this show, dynamic and complimentary to the varied skill of the cast, it created a sense of seamlessness that kept the energy high.

The creative team and entire cast are to be congratulated for delivering a show that I would place among my favorite musical theatre performances this year. So relieve yourself of your daily worries and plop…I mean pop in to the Schonell Theatre to catch Urinetown while you …can!

Urinetown

30
Aug
12

James Gauci in Urinetown

Urinetown

urinetown

– not the place – the musical –

 

We asked James Gauci to tell us about Urinetown – not the place – the musical!

Look, I have to say that he always reminds me a little bit of Chris Evans Captain America

mercmouth.tumblr.com

…oops, sorry; wrong capture (but thanks mercmouth.tumblr.com for posting that one!).

Captain America Chris Evans

Chris Evans as Captain America in The Avengers

But James Gauci is not out to save the world…just Urinetown.

Urinetown opens tonight!

BOOK HERE

Here we go…

James, for those who don’t make the Schonell Theatre at UQ their regular hangout, can you tell us about Underground Productions’ home and a bit of the company history?

 

Underground recently moved permanently to the Schonell Theatre where they stage limited runs of three shows per year. The Schonell is such a great old theatre… seventies vintage with just over 400 seats and home to some of Brisbane’s best community theatre societies. It also happens to be one of Brisbane’s largest stages – it’s even deeper than QPAC’s Lyric. And it has the famous UQ Pizza Caffe attached. I don’t think casts would eat were it not for that glorious establishment.

Underground Productions is the UQ student theatre company, started in the seventies and run under various names through the years. ‘Underground Productions’ has stuck since 1999. Many famous personalities have come up through their ranks, Bille Brown and Geoffery Rush included. Also, I don’t think there’s been a drama student in Brisbane of the last decade that hasn’t heard of Underground’s (in)famous BUGFest!

I’ve come into contact with the company many times before, with friends appearing in dozens of their shows, but this will be my first time performing with them.

 

We last saw you on this stage as Anthony in Ignatians’ production of Sweeney Todd. What drew you to return, this time with Underground Productions, for Urinetown: The Musical?

 

I’ve been extremely lucky this year – Sweeney and Urinetown are two of my all-time favourites. Urinetown is so intelligent, romantic, self-deprecating, self-referential, dry and darkly comic. It runs the gamut of traditional musical theatre musical styles, it’s simultaneously melodramatic and intrinsically human, and it builds up your hope before unexpectedly smashing it to smithereens in a belted full-cast finale. It’s everything I love in theatre.

 

The last water-wise show we saw in Brisbane was La Boite’s Water Wars. Urinetown is a slightly more satirical look at the extreme end of the spectrum, once the world is depleted of natural resources. Can you tell us about the social messages embedded in Urinetown? How has the company approached them and what are the most poignant messages for us today?

 

Urinetown came into being when the show’s creators, Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, came across a pay-per-use toilet somewhere in France. They took this concept and applied it to the scholar Thomas Robert Malthus’s idea that humanity’s population growth will be checked by famine and disease, eventually reaching a ceiling. A bit of a stretch, yes! But in practical terms, the show’s fictional city has been drought-stricken for twenty years, and this problem has somewhat humourously manifested itself in the central conceit of the show – that it’s a privilege to pee.

Of course, we’re in an age when sustainability is a concept at the forefront of our political and economic discussion – whether it be in terms of the environment, resources, food or water. You’ll come to the realisation that you’re surreptitiously being given a healthy dose of perspective from all angles throughout the show.

However, if you think all that is terribly boring or way over your head, there’s loads of happy music, good versus evil, hilarious comedy and jazz hands everywhere that will make you forget all about it!

 

What were (Director) Lauren Ware’s priorities in the staging and telling of this story?

 

Lauren is an incredibly gifted young performer in her own right. She’s an accomplished dancer and choreographer, a terribly talented comic actress and can blow your socks off with her natural mezzo belt. The best part about this is that she’s so sensitive to the performers themselves whilst illustrating the concept she has for the show. Her priorities have been clean and professional execution of the music, comedy and choreography (I didn’t know my Achilles Tendons could be sore like that…) while maintaining the grounded and honest storytelling that is necessary for the show.

Urinetown is sometimes melodramatic, bordering on pantomime, but always honest. She’s managed to strike the balance extremely well in my opinion.

 

What’s your favourite message in the show?

 

There is so much delightfully meaningful/meaningless rhetoric that comes out of Bobby Strong’s mouth that it’s hard to pin it down to one idea! But I’m a total sap when it comes down to it so I choose ‘follow your heart’. Being true to yourself is all you can really, truly do, and it allows Bobby to live entirely without regret.

Although, as you’ll see, there always consequences to one’s actions… another message that you’ll have to see the show to get!

 

Will we leave the theatre inspired to finally commit to water-saving habits, like turning off the tap when we brush our teeth?

 

Oooh, hard to say. Probably not – the message is a little bit more complex, thankfully – but you should be doing that anyway! You’ll certainly never take a free public toilet for granted ever again.

 

So you turn off the tap when you brush your teeth?

 

Oh yes, absolutely. A combination of good parenting and many years of Sesame Street brainwashing. Youtube ‘Don’t Waste Water’ if you’re ready for a hit of nostalgia.

 

 

The book is pretty wry. At a time when Brisbane is embracing all things meta-theatrical, can you talk about the Brechtian influences of the show and how they have influenced aspects of the show such as design, staging, direction etc? 

 

It’s funny to think of Brecht when looking at Urinetown. All of the elements are there – the broken fourth wall, the minimalistic functional staging, the sensational themes and preposterous prepositions – but it’s not what I’d consider ‘traditionally’ Brechtian, Dialectical, Epic, or whichever term you prefer. For me, instead of being alienated from the action and remembering that I am in fact sitting in a theatre being told a story, I find that I escape into the world, become vastly more invested in the characters, find the comedy that much more hilarious, and the messages hit home much harder. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower.

Brecht may have used narrators and chorus, but he certainly wasn’t one to stage spectacular melodrama! Having said that, I think he would have (possibly secretly) enjoyed Urinetown. 

 

What is it that made this show a Broadway hit?

 

Incredible and deceptively complex music, a spectacularly hilarious and poignant script, and most importantly a totally original idea. Its grassroots origins also helped I think… the show started at an improv group, then went to the New York Theatre Fringe Festival, then Off-Broadway, then Broadway and Tony Awards. It’s the little show that could. And it did!

 

James Gauci Bobby Strong

 

Tell us about Bobby Strong.

 

He’s your textbook hero – a disenfranchised youth, an underdog of society working for ‘the man’ who suddenly has the hopes of an entire community thrust upon him. He loves his family and his friends, but finds it so difficult to reconcile that with his job as an Assistant Custodian of the local Public Amenity where he takes the cash they’ve scraped together just to go to the loo.

His flaw though is his naivety. Sometimes it’s easier to know what’s ‘right’ than what’s ‘best’, but he doesn’t care. Or understand. He’s so adorable.

 

What drives him? Is it the free toilets or is there something more? 

 

It’s so simple to him. He cares so much for the people of his community that he has no choice but to rally them to action. He wants the people to pee for free because the people are free!

 

Have you ever paid to use a toilet in Europe (or do you have a disastrous turnstile-leaping story for us)?

 

Thankfully my stories of toilet tragedy have been few and far between. I think the closest I can gather would be taking a wee as a little kid while standing in a green ants nest. It was only fair – I peed on them, so they peed on me. Difference being that there were hundreds of them. And they pee acid. Yowch.

 

Is there anything else we should know about Urinetown, Underground Productions or what you’re up to next?

 

With Urinetown and Underground fairly covered, next up for me will be Oscar Theatre Company’s Queensland Premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal, scheduled for the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC next April. I’m very proud to be working with five of Brisbane’s most insanely talented musical theatre performers. I couldn’t resist seeing the original cast twice when I was visiting Broadway a couple of years ago so I’ll be taking great pleasure in re-creating the roles of Dr Madden and Dr Fine.

Funnily, I think it could be the closest I’ll ever get to actually using my psychology degree.

 

Chookas, James! We hope you enjoy a wonderful season. x

 

Urinetown