Students get a crash course with 'Urinetown'

·3 min read

Jul. 23—If Immersion Youth Repertory Theatre is a theater boot camp, then Misha Johnson is an uncharacteristically encouraging drill sergeant.

"That looked great," Johnson, co-founder and executive director of Immersion Youth Rep, told the cast of "Urinetown" after a song-and-dance number in rehearsal Wednesday.

In the span of two weeks, a cast of 13 teens will learn their lines, songs and dance routines for the musical satire. A crew will have the same amount of time to create and hit the sound and light cues, set props, and change over sets.

"It is a full immersion experience," said Will Laudon, who plays Officer Lockstock, the show's narrator and a main character.

For first-time Immersion Youth Rep musical performer Mitchell Romanauski, the seven-hour rehearsal days have been a rigorous experience.

"I knew we'd be busy, but I was not expecting this," he said.

Even Laudon, who played Jean Valjean in Immersion Youth Rep's production of "Les Miserables" in 2019, said the pace of "Urinetown" surprised him.

"Especially this show, it's number after number after number," he said.

"Urinetown" is set in a vague future setting in a world ravaged by drought where people have to pay for the privilege to pee.

Most musicals take six to eight weeks to prepare for an audience. In two weeks of seven-hour rehearsals, actors and crew members get a crash course.

"Urinetown" lampoons multiple popular musicals throughout the show, which also means actors have to emulate multiple theatrical styles. (The program will feature a musical bingo card for audience members to fill out as they spot the parodies.)

"We're learning so many dance styles," Laudon added.

Immersion Youth Rep co-founder Lindsey Blackhurst provided vocal training to the cast.

"I've learned a lot of singing techniques," Romanauski said.

Most years, the musical cast features up to 40 actors.

This year, the size of the show was limited to a cast of 13 due to precautions to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Johnson also considered the fact that if more strict precautions were in place by the time the show was performed, having the actors wear protective equipment wouldn't have looked out of place in the show's setting.

With Rochester Civic Theatre launching a youth theater program, some of Immersion Youth Rep's programs will be rolled into Civic programs. Immersion will focus more on giving high school actors pre-professional training for high school and college theater courses.

The one-week course for students in third through seventh grades will become part of the Civic's programming, headed by Kami Sim.

"Urinetown" opens Friday, July 23, with a second performance Saturday, July 24.

If you go

What: Immersion Youth Repertory's production of "Urinetown"

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 23 and 24

Where: Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE, Rochester

Tickets: $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, available online.

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