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September 15, 2006

Urine luck

The hit show comes to Akron, and its lead actor
has a little life advice

All right, this time there will be no bathroom jokes whatsoever.

The return of Urinetown: The Musical to northeast Ohio is no laughing matter, so there will be no urological humor here.

Well, maybe just a little . . .

Of course, it might be a good idea to leave that sort of thing to the professionals. For instance, Chris Murrah, who plays Bobby Strong, the male lead and head of the resistance in Urinetown.

When asked what attracted him to the show, Murrah answered, �A great need to pee.�

�No, in all honesty the piece itself is exactly what I love. It�s not sweet and sappy and neither is it without heart,� he continued in an email. �In fact, it�s the heart of the show that allows such an absurd premise to play out in a musical.�

�On that note, however, as Sean [Cercone, artistic director] has said, it�s not so absurd. We live in a time when water is becoming more and more precious and companies like Enron are plagued with greed and corruption,� he noted. �I think that this show allows us to explore the extreme possibilities of our current realities.�

�Also, and I have to mention this, the fact that Jennifer Cody [from the Broadway cast] is attached to this project was a huge draw,� Murrah concluded. �I knew the integrity of the piece would be upheld and the show would not just be about �bits� to get laughs.�

And laughs there are aplenty in the satirical Urinetown: The Musical. The absurd premise Murrah spoke of is that water becomes so scarce that private restrooms have been eliminated, and people are forced to pay to use public amenities.

When Caldwell B. Cladwell, the harsh master of the Urine Good Company, decides to raise the price of using the urinals, Joseph Strong refuses to pay and relieves himself on the street, leading to his arrest by the police and exile to the mysterious Urinetown, whence none ever return.

Joseph�s son Bobby takes up his father�s struggle, and he and the rebels wind up eventually kidnapping Cladwell�s daughter Hope.

Tensions rise, Hope and Bobby fall in love, everything goes down the proverbial crapper and then the piece reaches its insane climax.

All the way through, Officer Lockstock and a lovable orphan named Little Sally engage each other and the audience in conversation, explaining the setting and giving hints of what is to come.

Murrah, despite loyalty to the obvious choice, is hard-pressed to pick a favorite character.

�Oh, whoa. Well, let me preface by saying that no character in this show is perfect. The show does a great job of pointing up the �gray areas� in life,� he stated. �Bobby has this wonderful desire to better the world, but he lacks the education and understanding to see that fixing today doesn�t ensure a tomorrow.�

�I think I am a lot like him and my dad is always telling me the same,� he confided. �Bobby needs to learn the whole thing about giving a man a fish or teaching a man to fish. You know what I am saying?�

�I also have to say that I love Hope�s outlook on life, which is simply believing that everyone has a heart. (Of course, when you see the show you�ll see where she leads everyone),� Murrah continued. �All of the people in this show are survivors and are to be admired for that. Now when it comes to the way in which they go about surviving, be it biting or conniving, I leave judgment to the audience.�

The gay leading man got a little cagier when it came to his own romantic survival in real life. When asked if he was involved, he said, �Ha! Let�s leave that as one of life�s great mysteries, like the Pyramids.�

�What�s so mysterious about the Pyramids, anyways?� he asked, quickly changing the subject.

He also declined to offer career advice for aspiring actors.

�Oh, I don�t know that I am one to give advice; I am still learning so much myself,� Murrah said. �There is no magic formula to this business. I was the underdog in college and yet have been fortunate enough to work afterwards. I have no idea how it happens.�

�Some of the most talented people I know go years without working and this perplexes me,� he opined. �I would say one thing, and maybe this is to anyone, not just those wanting to perform.�

�Always strive to be better,� came his advice. �Not just in singing and dancing, though we have to strive there too, but as a human. It occurred to me last night that in my insecurity recently I have been a little more of a gossip than I would like. We falter sometimes, but it�s always good to check in.�

�Remember how you want to be treated and treat others that way,� Murrah continued. �Why as gay men do we sometimes forget how it was to have mean notes put in our lockers or be called a fag or sissy? We forget and we start judging each other based on haircuts and clothes and weight and body type. I mean, really?�

�Is this what we truly care about?� he asked. �Loving others and myself unconditionally is a major theme for me right now and I just wanted to pass it on. Now, there is no promise of fame or fortune or even a job in this advice.�

Murrah concludes, �But for me, at the end of the day when I have been the best person I could be, whether I am waiting tables or taking a bow on opening night, if I have taken steps to being a more loving person, the day has been a success.�

Urinetown: The Musical plays at Carousel Dinner Theater, 1275 East Waterloo Road in Akron, through November 4. For showtimes and tickets, call 330-7249855 or go to


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