For four years, Eliot Cohen has been a theater kid, part of the Performing Arts Curriculum Exchange (PACE) program at Mamaroneck High School where students can major in things theatrical.
He has also done Shakespeare with Dee O’Brien’s Semi-Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing as Macduff in “Macbeth” and as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
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What he hasn’t done — in school, at least — is a traditional big-book musical.
At Mamaroneck High, that opportunity comes once in a high-school career, in the senior-class musical. This year’s production, on stage this weekend, is “Urinetown” and Cohen plays rebel leader Bobby Strong.
“Urinetown” is a musical about a time in the not-too-distant future when water shortages have forced the government to clamp down on how people relieve themselves. In short, as one rather indelicate song puts it, “it’s a privilege to pee” and those wishing to exercise that privilege must pay. It’s a dark subject, handled in big, bright production numbers set to Mark Hollmann’s bouncy score, with lyrics by Hollmann and book writer Greg Kotis. Along the way, it lovingly skewers classic Broadway shows, such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “West Side Story.” Songs include “Look at the Sky,” “Snuff That Girl,” “Run Freedom Run” and “Don’t Be the Bunny.”
Director Stacie Moye has a mix of veterans — PACE kids like Cohen and Wednesday Derrico (who plays Penelope Pennywise) — and newcomers who have never set foot on stage. But here they are in their seniors-only musical, a tradition at just a few schools across the Lower Hudson Valley. (Horace Greeley and Pearl River are the others.)
“The kids were really excited when we settled on this last spring,” director Moye said, adding with a smile: “Most of the cast is really buying into it, and maybe going a little too far at times.”
Cohen, who has also appeared in musicals outside of school, said he likes playing Bobby.
“He’s a complex character to play and there’s a lot of physicality to the role,” he said. “He strikes poses and he’s always out to audience and making gestures. He’s full of idealism.”
Sam Margolis plays the heavy of the piece, Caldwell B. Cladwell, his first musical since he was a Lost Boy in “Peter Pan” at Hommocks Middle School.
“He looks like a bad guy, but he has other motives. He might be brutal, but he’s really good,” Margolis said.
Derrico’s character, Penelope, is mysterious.
“She goes through a wide change throughout the play,” she said. “She has a lot of secrets.”
And she’s not terribly likeable.
Derrico was “Lady M” in the Semi-Royal “Macbeth” and is enjoying playing another designing woman. She also likes that the show works on different levels.
“My little sister can understand what’s going on about a serious matter, government and politics and corrupt behavior and then relate to it with funny jokes and catchy songs,” she said.
“At PACE, we still get the training — dance, music and theater — we just don’t do big musicals,” she said.
Derrico said working with fellow seniors who don’t do theater regularly — such as football captain Robbie Millman — makes for an interesting rehearsal process.
“It’s cool to work with kids who’ve never done it before,” she said.
At a recent rehearsal, the stage was full of seniors, chatting, listening to Moye, going through scenes, working on where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there.
This weekend, where they’ll be is “Urinetown.”
Where: Mamaroneck High School, 1000 W. Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck
When: 8 p.m., April 22, 23, 24.
Tickets: $12; $8 students; senior citizens free.
With: Naaji Adzimah, Christina Angilletta, Gissel Aquije, Rebecca Badner, Saulito Barrios, Eric Bellin, David Benudis, Zakry Broodie-Stewart, Caroline Clarke, Eliot Cohen, Megan Correia, Alex Corrsin, Stephanie Corsetti, Julianne Cuba, Rochelle Daughma, Shanni Davidowitz, Christina De Barros, Leann Delluomo, Wednesday Derrico, Natalie Diacovo, Nick Fraser, Juan Galan, Natalie Garfield, Eric Gordon, Zoe Gould, Matt Gray, Hallie Greenberg, Julia Hattem, Sarah Healy, Will Jacobs, Zoe Jacobson, Maddy Jurish, Sam Karson, Scott Kettig, Danielle Kogan, Mara Lewis, Sam Margolis, Meghan Marr, Megan McEvily, Jodi Miller, Robbie Millman, Kaitlyn Mirabella, Liana Mistriel, Henry Nabholz, Hayden Novikoff, Anthony Otiniano, Rebecca Paganini, Caitlin Plaut, Rachel Rabinowitz, Jamie Rabinowitz, Noah Rauschkolb, Carly Renda, Robbie Roth, Suzannah Rubinstein, Carly Sadowsky, Matt Sandler, Becky Shuman, Tory Silberbush, Shelby Silverman, Natalie Silverstein, Janaye Stanford, Emily Straus, Katie Stuntz, Kelly Tapia, Natalie Teboul, Stephanie Tunic, Emily Weitzman, Emily Wharton, Allison Wilens, Cole Yaverbaum, Cecillia Yun, Rebecca Zell, Ilana Zucker-Scharff, Ben Zuckert, Nick Gersh, Josh Kogan, Zach Upton Davis, Matthew Weston, Rachel Chess, Nina Chiappetta, Kristin D’Alba, Maria Dambriunas, Jack Fishman, Lis Foster, Catherine Gerkis, Allison Grossman, Kate Kruse, Alex Kyritsis, Meghan Lanza, Erica Magnotta, Nicole Merigliano, Elissa Miller, Zoe Morvay, Sophia Naqvi, Michael Poleman, Luke Randall, Kevin Saporito, Matt Scarpa, Sam Silverman, Adrienne Szamotula, Matt Weiner, Hannah Yue