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 Urinetown: The Musical
Author: CharlestonDoubler 
Date:   2007-06-11 21:36

I just finished an 18 show run of Urinetown: The Musical, during the Spoleto Festival here in Charleston, SC. The show only uses five musicians/books. Piano, percussion, bass, trombone/euphonium, and the reed book. The reed book calls for clarinet, bass clarinet (down to low D), soprano sax, and alto sax.

I am writing this post because it is probably the most well written and enjoyable book I have played in many years, and that goes back a long way... The book is well written, lays well on each horn, and plays in about 2:05 with a 15 minute intermission. There is very little down time and the horn changes are all well timed. It is hard to believe the pit is only five players because it is so well written and orchestrated that the pit sounds much bigger. One number features bass clarinet and is probably the best writing for bass clarinet I have ever seen. There is also a solo clarinet ad lib that was a big hit at each show.

If you get called to play the book, I highly recommend taking the gig. The show is funny and enjoyable.

Please, spare me all the "pee" jokes..... I'm just trying to give you a heads up it's a good show to play .......

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: anonrob 
Date:   2007-06-13 17:57

I played a three week run of Urinetown in November and if anything, you are not praising it enough. It is both brilliant and fun.

In our production, the band was on stage wearing appropriately distressed prison uniforms.


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 Original Instrumentation
Author: mikeW 
Date:   2007-09-07 16:46

I guess I'm hijacking this thread, but I have a question about the instrumentation:

We're starting a run of "Urinetown" this weekend (I'm playing the reed book). Someone was checking out the band and was surprised that there was only one reed player. He said that he saw it on Broadway and thought the pit was larger. I'm wondering if anyone (JJM perhaps) knows if the Broadway instrumentation was different from what MTI is renting, which is piano, bass, drums, brass (trombone and euphonium) and reed (cl., bass cl., sop sax and alto sax).

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 Re: Original Instrumentation
Author: Bret Pimentel 
Date:   2007-09-07 19:06

The instrumentation you describe seems to match the Broadway production:


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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: mikeW 
Date:   2007-09-07 21:58

Thanks. That looks like a cool resource... Mike

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: CharlestonDoubler 
Date:   2007-09-11 15:06


It's interesting that someone who saw the show thought the pit was larger. IMO, the pit sounds bigger because the writing is so well done. Please share your experience after the show. Good luck......

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: mikeW 
Date:   2007-09-11 17:52

last weekend was opening. They've got a very strong cast (there are 6 significant singing roles - 7 if you count the senator - and the ensemble gets plenty of space, too) & the opening weekend pretty much sold out. My wife also loved the dance sequences (while we're in a loft and can see a lot of what's going on, I always seem to be busy during the dance bits...).

There IS a lot of really good writing in the score. As you (CharlestonDoubler) observed, there are no impossible instrument changes and it lays well on each horn. Clarinet goes up to the E (with some F#'s and G's and one G#), so there's some work on the klezmer inspired bits. I also liked the bass clarinet in "Don't be the Bunny" (most of this is in unison with the trombone). Alto has some nice underscore bits in 'Freedom" and one of the dance sequences (and it lays pretty well for Gb...). The soprano parts are nice: The opening and bows are sort of soprano-led bookends on the show.

The orchestration is good and the way the brass and reed are combined provieds a lot of different textures. I think that's why it's surprising there are only two wind voices. I suppose it's ultimately a financial constraint on the production, but this may be a trend: I played "Grand Night for Singing" earlier this year and it was scored for reed and cello with piano, bass and drums. (It has some nice orchestrations from Jonathan Tunick and Michael Gibson. I also really like some of Tunick's work on Sondheim shows. I think his writing for bass clarinet is great.)

We didn't think we were going to play any music beyond the bows so we hadn't looked at it. So opening night was interesting when we had to play the exit music...

Thanks to Finale and Sibelius, modern books are generally readable. This one goes even further, and a lot of the cues and so forth are already notated in the book. I think I have made only 3 or 4 notes in the whole book. Wow! Perhaps that doesn't fully convey my appreciation: WOW!!

I just wish I had some more time to practice some of the clarinet bits. I think I'm playing or rehearsing something every night for the next month or so. My wife is not amused.

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: davyd 
Date:   2007-09-13 21:09

That you didn't play the Exit Music until opening night is unfortunate, but it's not surprising, either. There never seems to be any time or energy to prepare an Exit number. To be fair, perhaps the director originally didn't want the Exit played, and then changed his/her mind at the last minute. O well; that's show business.

Post Edited (2007-09-14 19:54)

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: georginars 
Date:   2008-09-17 10:13

I played Urinetown last year and it is one of the best books I've ever played - loved it (especially the clarinet stuff). We were on the stage too - and what a great show for everybody involved.

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2008-09-25 17:41

If you get to rehearse the bows, it's because the director really wants to feature his cast in the closing minutes, not because he thinks that the music needs rehearsal.

And the Exit music? Well, it's somewhat of a tradition not to look at them until the pre-show warmup on the night of the opening...

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: FrankM 
Date:   2008-11-10 14:27

I did Urinetown a couple years ago. I just finished 3 Penny Opera. As soon as we started the overture, I realized it was virtually the same as Urinetown's....evidently, there is some connection, though the stories are different enough !

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: griffinstorme 
Date:   2015-11-22 02:16

Do you guys think a conductor is necessary for this show, or does the pianist usually do it?
I'm probably MDing this show in the spring, and I don't know if I should conduct from the piano or hire a pianist.

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: anonrob 
Date:   2016-03-15 01:59

I have played it 3 times at the professional (Equity, AFM), college, and high school levels. In all 3 cases the MD conducted from the piano. It is important to have good sight lines, but there were no real problems in any of the settings. Have fun, it is a great show.

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 Re: Urinetown: The Musical
Author: Cahsual Stephen 
Date:   2016-05-25 05:17

I just played that in my this year as lead clarinet in an all Freshman pit for my high school. We got nominated for best pit at the fifth avenue awards, and I can definitely say it has been the best experience of my life. I recommend playing it to anyone who has the opportunity.

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