I teach at an independent K-12 school. Our annual musical is performed by the high school but often school families will attend. I have a question for people who have done 'Urinetown'. Did you have to talk your administrators into doing the show? If so, how did you do it? How did you get them beyond the title? What was their and the school community's response to the show? Any accolades you would care to share with me?
I've made a very strong case for the show, and one person is reading it. I am curious if other people have had the same problem.
Yes -this has come up before - a teacher at Stanton College Prep School in Florida had some of the same issues as you did, and we asked him how it all worked out. His answer was so great that I'm just going to reprint it in its entirety:
There are any number of reasons that we wanted to produce Urinetown" - the excitement of mounting a new piece that hadn't previously been produced by anyone else in our town, the vocal and dramatic challenges that the show would pose to our students, the simple sick, twisted fun of it all ...
We were particularly interested in the show from an academic standpoint,
because "Urinetown"'s indebtedness to the works of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht (not to mention Kander and Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, and Marc Blitzstein) opened up terrific avenues for classroom lessons on Epic Theater. Our advanced classes benefited enormously from this chance to see theatrical theory put into practice.
Of course, the title is a little off-putting. Our principal was apprehensive about the show at first, but after discussing it with us, she let us proceed, ultimately telling us after viewing a dress rehearsal that now she didn't understand why she had ever worried about it. Our district superintendent, a former band director, congratulated us for doing such a good job with such a risky piece, and told us that he was proud of the way that we had represented the school system.
While simply doing the show was a phenomenal experience - one of the best we've ever had in my twenty-one years at this school - it was even more exciting that we were invited to present our show as a mainstage production at the 2006 Florida State Thespian Festival, where we completely packed a 1,400-seat theater for two performances. The day after we went on, our kids wore urine-yellow T-shirts identifying them as "Urinetown" cast and crew, and they were barraged with compliments from total strangers all day long.
I loved every minute of working on this show, and I think that my co-director, colleagues and students would agree that it was the most fun that we have ever had working hard!
More on this production in a great article here.
Hope this helps, and if you have more specific concerns, please feel free to address them here - we'd love to help!
To add to Marcus' post, Urinetown is a much smarter (and appropriate!) show than you'd guess from the title. Composer and co-lyricist Mark Hollmann has explained that what attracted him to the idea was how it reminded him of shows like Three Penny Opera and The Cradle Will Rock, and the structures and styles of those shows are very evident in Urientown. The idea of an environmentally-ravaged world where corporations have such an insane amount of power seemed like the perfect opportunity to write a politically and socially conscious show. Along those lines, the show takes a hilarious yet critical look at the state of the environment. Since a 20 year drought is what caused a water shortage so severe that even toilet water must be regulated, the show could definitely spark discussions on the importance of protecting the environment and how likely a Urinetown-type world could actually be.
The show is also definitely appropriate for high school students and their families. Provocative title aside, there's no vulgarity or sexual innuendo anywhere in the show. Urinetown's comedy extends far beyond toilet humor, as well; the lyrics and jokes are clever enough to appeal to adults, and clean enough for children younger than high school age.
Good luck! It's a fun show that's critically acclaimed (it won three 2002 Tony Awards, including the ones for Best Book and Best Score), and it also has some interesting things to say. I hope your administrators allow you to do it!