ABU DHABI // A musical theatre group had to downsize its latest production after taking on a project with a controversial title and subject matter.
Although the production carries a strong environmental message, some found the title - Urinetown: The Musical - offensive. As a result, the Abu Dhabi Choral Group, an amateur organisation formed 30 years ago, had trouble raising money to put on the show, which begins tonight, at the Al Muna School, and ends on Saturday.
The group pulls much of its support and funding from the business community, said Jennifer Caldwell, a 46-year-old lawyer from New Zealand and the chairman of the group.
"We knew it would be a controversial selection, but it has a good message, and people are going to be pleasantly surprised by the show," Mrs Caldwell said.
She raised Dh25,000 to put on Beauty and the Beast last year, the overall cost of which came to about Dh100,000. She was only able to collect Dh5,000 in sponsorship against a budget of roughly Dh50,000 for this year's production. The rest of the production costs have been covered by ticket sales and annual membership fees.
There are 35 cast and crew taking on this Broadway favourite, which is based on a novel by Greg Kotis and has won three Tony Awards since it was first performed in 2001. It takes place in an unnamed city, where a 20-year drought has led to the banning of private toilets. A heartless corporation steps in and offers toilets for use at an astronomical fee, banishing residents who fail to pay to Urinetown. One man leads a revolt to secure his townsfolk the right to use toilets for free. Along the way, the show spoofs several other famous musicals, such as Les Misérables, Chicago, and Annie.
Jeanna Caputo, who serves as co-director of the show, said the role of the chorus, the comic aspect and the "deep and powerful underlying message" of Urinetown made it a "great to do".
Nevertheless, the choice of production has added to the choral group's ongoing issue of finding acceptance in the UAE. "It's a real challenge here," said Mrs Caldwell. "There is not the same widespread acceptance for musical theatre."
Although children are welcome to attend, parents should be aware the show does not have a happy ending. "We have really gone out on a limb with this one," said Shera-Lea Saunders, the co-director and one of the actors in the production.
Tickets are Dh50 and can be bought at the venue, or the video desk at Spinneys in Khalidiya.