Monday, April 25, 2016

Andrew Lipman talks about appearing in Tuscany Theatre's URINETOWN

Andrew Lipma
by Gil Benbrook

Urinetown is a rather unlikely name for a musical, but the show was nominated for ten Tony Awards, and won three, including ones for Best Book and Score. While it was a Broadway success, running for over two years and has bee produced locally, it is also a show that hasn’t been seen in the Valley in a while. 

The musical is set in the not too distant future. Water has become so scarce that private bathrooms have been banned; doing your business in the street, or behind a tree, faces severe consequences; and a corporation has now been put in charge of a series of pay toilets scattered across the land.  One of the policemen who oversees the public pay amenities is Officer Lockstock, who also serves as the narrator of the dark, but very funny, musical. 

Andrew Lipman plays Lockstock, and he took a break from final rehearsals of the show last week to answer some questions about the show, his role, and also his new bagel company in town.


For those who may not the show, what can you tell them about the musical?

"Urinetown was one of the musicals that I saw in New York that inspired me to pursue theater in the first place. It got a ten minute standing ovation when I went, No one had ever seen anything like it before. The show, strangely enough…is about a Post-Apocalyptic town where all of the water has run out.  Large Corporations have taken over the rationing and now everyone has to pay to pee. If you have go to use the restroom you have to travel to an 'amenity' and stand in line for hours. It follows the story of a young hero who fights back against the corporations in order to restore free access to the entire town. The music and book are both really fantastic, witty and funny. It is a truly unique musical that you have to see live to really understand. 'It’s Bernie VS. Trump the Musical'…in other words."

What can you tell us about the character you play, Officer Lockstock?

"Officer Lockstock is the Chief of Police in the City that Urinetown takes place in. He’s been a citizen since the beginning, and basically narrates the entire show. He breaks the forth wall constantly, and is a huge HAM. Just when you think the show is getting too dark, I swoop in with some kind of funny tongue-in-cheek joke or lounge-singing that explains things, and usually pokes fun at musicals as a whole."

Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

"It’s definitely when Bobby and I have our 'Mop Battle' during 'Privilege to Pee' Reprise. I have ridiculous song lyrics like “He made a mockery, he shunned the crockery” as we are fighting over a pee-covered mop. It’s basically a love ballad sung by me to our show’s romantic lead about the dangers of not paying to go to the bathroom."

Andrew Lipman in Urinetown
photo: Lisa Webb/Southwest Shots Photography
Have you ever played this part before? And did you learn anything during rehearsals that made you change your original ideas on how to play Lockstock?

"I have never played this part before, it’s always been one of my bucket list roles. One of the major things that I learned in my character analysis and rehearsal process is that Lockstock truly does LOVE the community. He’s not just some evil cop who kills people and hams it up. He shows the audience that things are NEVER black and white. He’s one big grey area of the musical, which makes it challenging to play him honestly all of the time. The part certainly calls for it though."

Tell us a little about your past acting experience.

"I grew up in New Jersey and started doing theater when my family moved to Arizona. I was thirteen at the time. I fell in love with it instantly. For the next 20 years, it was very rare to not find me in two or three productions at a time. I acted at most of the old school youth theaters for a certain time (Greasepaint, Valley Youth Theater, and Desert Stages). When I graduated high school I attended The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and started booking shows around the country. I lived in NYC for about 14 years and worked with a lot of great theater companies on the East Coast. Some of my favorite regional roles have been Pooh-Bah in The Mikado and Dave Bukatiniski in The Full Monty."

In addition to performing you’ve also started your own business, The Bagel Bandit. What made you start the company, and what can you tell us about it?

"To be perfectly honest, the company came out of my dissatisfaction with the restaurant / retail community. I had been cooking and baking for years, and couldn’t handle working another job for some corporate clown who couldn’t care less about hourly wages, working conditions, or product quality. I experimented with different doughs and test markets for about 6 months and then made it go live. It started with simple home deliveries, but has now expanded into a much bigger bagel empire, including weekly farmer’s markets. I owe the growth and quality to my amazing family and friends who have helped me along the way and my obsessive (often disagreeable) attitude about food quality. Every single bagel must be delicious, properly seasoned, and baked. The only huge downside is that I work about 50 hours in 3.5 days. Owning your own baking business is not for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t trade being my own boss for anything though."

Andrew Lipman in a promo photo for Urinetown
photo: Andrea McFeely
You've acted at many theatres across the Valley, including Hale, Mesa Encore Theatre and Fountain Hills. What makes Tuscany Theatre Company unique when compared to the other companies in town?

"As you know, I’m quite a problem child on public media, so I’ll try to be a good boy with this answer. A lot of theater companies I have worked with in this valley have a lot of good points about them. Some also have the unfortunate plague of having terrible theater administration. In my opinion theater should never be censored or rooted in religion. It should also not be ran into the ground by egotistical owners and producers, serving their own monetary interests. That being said, Tuscany is a refreshing breath of air. You really feel like you’re part of a family here. I loved working with Andrea (McFeely, the director). She gives you the opportunity to have fun and really flesh out your role. Tuscany doesn’t care about doing Fiddler on the Roof for the 800th time. They’d rather do edgy work and wow audiences. They also have the cheapest tickets in town. In a world where some community theaters charge $35.00 per ticket, it’s a really nice change."

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing Urinetown?

"I hope people will come away really thinking about the state of the world today. Urinetown’s lessons echo so deeply with our modern society. Everything from Conservation, To Capitalism, to Police State issues. Urinetown has it all. Oh, it’s pretty damn funny as well, so I guess I hope people laugh. A LOT."

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