The promotional photo for New Canaan High School's latest musical production was shot in the boys bathroom. The leads of Urinetown filed in Saturday afternoon (girls included, although only after making a u-turn from the door they usually go in), and assumed the position.
Catherine Chiocchi, who stars as heroine Hope Cladwell, nearly got splashed by an auto-flush when she sat down on a urinal; after a heads-up rescue by fellow actor Jelani Alladin, director Dee Alexander plopped a plunger over the sensor to prevent further flow. But as Nick Larson, a.k.a. narrator and pseudo-villain Officer Lockstock, straddled the toilet in the stall, the flushes kept ringing an à propos soundtrack.
"So much wasted water," Chiocchi said, alluding to the 20-year drought that is part of the premise of the play. Giggles, of course, ensued.
Bathroom jokes are unavoidable when you're putting on a show that revolves around the "privilege to pee" in a world where, due to the shortage of water, free toilets don't exist.
NCHS' spring shows are often on the lesser-known or edgy side, which excites the diehard members of the high school's theater community. Much of the tight-knit group of about two dozen working on Urinetown had just finished the award-winning run of the crowd-pleasing Mystery of Edwin Drood, which had a cast and crew of more than 100, when rehearsals began. With a title that references bodily functions this one is definitely provocative. But the cast says the plot is more than adolescent.
"It's a really well-respected musical after you get past the title," said Chicocchi, even if the shock value does help fill the seats.
"My history teacher knew the show," she said, explaining that when the mob of poor folk rebelling against the pee fees is pushed back behind barricades at the end of Act One, "it reminds me of the French Revolution."
But the script keeps the story more austere than most history books might tell it.
At one point Officer Lockstock rebuffs a suggestion from Little Sally, a smartypants heckler who helps narrate the show, to make things more complicated.
"Little Sally says, 'Why don't you talk about hydraulics?' [since it's a play that hinges on plumbing], but I tell her we're keeping it simple," explained Nick Larson who plays Lockstock.
And Ryan Timberlake's character, hero Bobby Strong, professes his love to Hope in the most straight forward way possible.
"I just sing about aortas, instead of metaphorically."
In otherwords, Urinetown is, despite its off-putting title, quite relatable.
"Drood was hard for younger kids [to understand]," said Ali Rusch, who plays Penelope Pennywise, the miserly, power-hungry warden of the nastiest and cheapest pay toilet in town. "This is a scenario for younger kids."
After all, everyone has to pee sometimes.
The NCHS production of Urinetown opens tonight.