Public Amenity No. 1

South Eugene High School nails season opener Urinetown

The cast of Urinetown
The cast of Urinetown

A delightfully satirical sendup, 2001’s Urinetown: The Musical by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, pokes fun at everyone, from poet Bertolt Brecht and Les Miz, to our legal system, politics and capitalism. Refreshingly irreverent, Urinetown is a musical’s musical, and it’s given the five-star treatment by the capable team at South Eugene High School (SEHS).

In Urinetown, we’re sometime in the future and private toilets have been outlawed. The right to pee (first time for everything: I just wrote “pee” in a review) has been overtaken by corporations, who consistently raise the rates on the one “Public Amenity” in town. (If Aristotle went looking for a dramatic “incentive moment,” he need not look much further than an entire populace forced to hold it.)

Pat Avery directs this stellar cast, with choreography by Adam Kelly and musical and vocal direction by Doug Dorfoert and Chris Dobson. Vikki Brabham conducts the show’s tiny but fierce band.

The show centers on a post-apocalyptic romance between Hope Cladwell (Abigail Howell) — the daughter of the evil CEO — and her scrappy Urinetown boyfriend, Bobby Strong (Simon Luedtke).

Howell’s voice is clear and resonant, and her character has just the right combination of wide-eyed wonder and feisty fortitude. Luedtke, too, possesses terrific tenor richness and acting chops to match, grounding the production with his confident, yet funny portrayal.

Other standouts include Emelia Reed as Little Sally, Sage Siepert as Caldwell B. Cladwell, Lucy Geller as Pennywise and Kyra Siegel as a very pregnant Little Becky Two Shoes.

The entire ensemble plows through the work with gusto, singing and dancing their hearts out. You get the sense that they’re enjoying the opportunity to show just how smart, and aware, kids and teens really are.

(When my 9-year-old asked me how the show was, and I described the basic plot, he said, “That sounds like it could happen.”)

Sobering perhaps, but trust me: The show is really funny.

SEHS’s stagecraft class constructs sets. Costumes, lights and sound are all designed and executed by students.

But before you dismiss this as merely a show by and for teens, consider that many of your beloved Oregon Ducks are not yet of legal drinking age  — they’re just “college kids” — yet you’d pay top dollar to watch them play.

So give South Eugene Theater a chance, because despite deep and consistent cuts to arts education, they’re consistently churning out some of the finest musical productions in town.

Urinetown continues Nov. 5, 6, 8*, 12, 13, 14 at 7 pm (*2 pm matinee) in the South Eugene High School Auditorium, 400 E. 19th Ave.; $10-$15. More info at