The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years

LION Newspaper

The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years

LION Newspaper

The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years

LION Newspaper

Happiness Survey
Happiness Survey
April 3, 2024
To bet or not to bet
March 21, 2024

What are your plans for spring break?


Sorry, there was an error loading this poll.

‘Urinetown’ musical prepares for debut

Theater director Lawrence Keller directs final shows before retirement
Lawrence Keller speaks at theater board meeting on Feb. 1 (Klos/LION).

Coming up on Feb. 22-25, the second musical of the school year, “Urinetown,” will debut in the NC Reber Center. Co-directing the show are LT theater directors Lawrence Keller and Michael Kuehl, along with music directors John Musick, David Hartley and Emma Gingold, who directs the pit orchestra. 

“‘Urinetown’ is a quote unquote ‘big musical’ and it was brought to our attention by [Auditorium Technical Director] Laura Moore,” Keller said. “We both read [the script] and found it hysterically funny. The show also offers a lot more parts for individual actors than other shows.”

“Urinetown” is a satirical comedy musical that first premiered on Broadway in 2001. The show has earned 10 Tony nominations and won three. The story is set in a time of desperation as a town is suffering from a water shortage after a 20-year drought. The drought causes private toilets to be outlawed and the public now has to pay for the “privilege to pee.” 

If citizens relieve themselves in public or refuse to pay the fee, they’re sent to the infamous “Urinetown.” 

LT’s production consists of two casts, with each cast alternating, performing every other night Thursday through Sunday. Grace Simmon ‘24 will be playing the female lead, Hope Cladwell, on Thursday and Saturday night. 

“I’m most looking forward to getting on the stage,” Simmon said. “The process of a musical can be really stressful and it can be difficult to see the full picture until you’re [on the stage performing]. I’m excited to make it to the point where we can just go for it and put the story together as one cohesive show.”            

The show will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors, and $10 for adults.  


Keller set to retire

“Urinetown” is not only a special show since it is the second musical of the year, but it is also Keller’s last musical with LT, as he will be retiring at the end of the school year. Keller has been at LT since 2005, and has put on numerous theater productions as one of the three theater directors. He has also taught hundreds of students in his Interpersonal Communication (IPC) and playwriting classes, some of which have gone on to pursue careers in theater and playwriting. 

For example, one of his students, David Gosz ‘13, attended University of Chicago and now writes musicals for a living. Another one of his students, Brendan Blaber ‘12, is now a voice actor, writer, illustrator, author, and a famous Youtuber. Keller also taught Alex Convery ‘10, who wrote the script of the recent film “Air,” directed by Ben Affleck. This is a film that former President Barack Obama named one of his top 10 films of the year, Keller said. 

Kuehl has been working with Keller since the day he started at LT, and was even on the team that interviewed him for the position. 

“Keller brings a sense of endless possibility to every show he produces,” Kuehl said. “He has grand ideas and artistic vision, and he always figures out a way to make that come to life on the stage. He really pushes kids to get the best out of them.” 

This year has been particularly busy for Keller and the theater program, as the first musical of the year “As You Like It” qualified for Illinois High School Theater Festival (IHSTF) at Illinois State University. To qualify, judges from IHSTF came to one of the performances of “As You Like It” back in November, and they only had positive things to say about the show, Keller said. On Jan. 12, the cast of “As You Like It” performed for schools all around the state. There were over 20 different performances and workshops on skills like improvisation, fight choreography, auditions, and make-up for kids to attend. 

“When we produced ‘As You Like It,’ which culminates in four weddings: two straight weddings, a gay wedding and a lesbian wedding, the judges called it a brave choice,” Keller said. “We take for granted that we can [put on shows like this] without question. That gift of [LT] trusting the kids and the community with whatever beautiful story to perform on stage, has been great.” 

Keller was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up being surrounded by Broadway productions, and he would go two to three times a week to see shows, he said. He attended SUNY Plattsburgh in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and received a master of Fine Arts in Directing at Florida State University. He then moved to Atlanta and professionally directed multiple shows including four productions for Atlanta’s largest theater, “The Alliance Theatre.” He later moved to Chicago in 1998 and went back to school in 2001 at Roosevelt University, to receive a master’s degree in education. Prior to working at LT, he worked at Glenbrook North High School for two years. 

“I really love seeing kids be their best selves,” Keller said. “There’s nothing like being in rehearsal with them when they discover something they can do on stage.” 

Simmon has been in multiple productions of Keller’s, including “Gen Zoom” her freshman year, “Neighborhood Three Requisition of Doom” her sophomore year, “Shop Around the Corner” her junior year, and “As You Like It” and “Urinetown” senior year, she said. Simmon has also taken play writing with Keller for two years. 

“He brings so much personality into rehearsals and performances and I think the theater space will feel so different when he’s not there,” she said. “He always pushes us to be better and do more and because he holds us to such a high standard, I feel prepared to have the standards of the professional [acting] world.” 

Although “Urinetown” is Keller’s last musical, his last show of the year will be the annual “Tens by Teens” show in the spring. He created this annual production, which features original 10-minute plays written by LT students.

“I thought I was looking forward to it all being over [however,] it feels bittersweet,” he said. “I’m hoping once I stop teaching, to continue writing plays, or to go back to professional directing.” 

Keller is a treasure trove of theatrical knowledge, however what Kuehl will miss most about him is his friendship and support, he said. 

“He’s leaving some big shoes to fill, but hopefully we’ll survive,” Kuehl said. “One of the things about theater [is] it’s hard to look forward, because your eyes always get blinded by the lights.” 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lillian Davis
Lillian Davis, News Editor
just because i haven’t responded doesn’t mean i didn’t read your text

Comments (0)

The LION reserves the right to not publish comments that promote unproductive discourse, are slanderous or not factual or are not of any relevance to the article's contents.
All LION Newspaper Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *