Broadway comedic romp: Park Rapids, Menahga students shine in musical

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Park Rapids and Menahga High School drama departments staged a joint musical production last weekend.

"Urinetown the Musical" showcased their singing, acting and dancing abilities.

"I have been utterly impressed with the students throughout this production process," said director Juliann Kjenaas. "With a cast of 32 students and 14 technical students working on the show, the overall level of dedication and enthusiasm has been incredible."

Winner of three Tony Awards, "Urinetown" is a humourous musical satire of the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, municipal politics and even musical theatre itself. It ran for three years on Broadway.

The fable is set in an unnamed dystopian city where a 20-year drought has caused a devastating water shortage. In order to conserve water, the government has instituted a series of reforms outlawing private toilets. Citizens must use public amenities, owned by a single mega-corporation called Urine Good Company, that profits by charging admission for one of humanity's most basic needs. If they are unable to pay — they are forcibly sent to mysterious Urinetown.

Written in an epic theatre style developed by Bertolt Brecht, an influential German playwright and director in the 1920 and 30s, Kjenaas said, "In today's political climate, 'Urinetown' is shockingly prophetic in its satire."

Brecht "aspired to make the theatre into a forum for political commentary and discussion; a forum not about emotion, but rather about reflection and introspection."

The production team involved Brian Hobson as music director, Jamie Jokela and Victoria Harju as technical directors, Jonathan Harrison as set construction consultant and Faith Kern in costumes. Cory Johnson, a professional actor, was the show's choreographer, along with student choreographers Victoria and Anika Campbell. Shania Farlee created a show poster. Lighting designers were Evan Booge and Keegan Smythe.

Community members Sarah Kaufenberg (piano) and Deane Johnson (reeds) joined the pit band with Ryan Webber (trombone) and Olivia Wallace (percussion).