URINETOWN: About the Show

 

In the early 2000's, Urinetown made a big splash on Broadway. Since its surprising success, it has experienced a vibrant life through regional tours, as well as college and high school productions. We say "surprising success" because with a name like "Urinetown," you might expect the show to debut off-Broadway and stay off Broadway. Maybe even off-off-off Broadway. However, this darkly comic meta-musical which tells of a dystopian society in which everyone must pay a tax in order to use the bathroom wins the audience over by the end of the first show tune.


Rumor has it that playwright Greg Kotis came up with the idea when he was compelled to use a pay-to-use toilet while traveling through Europe. The "You must pay to pee" theme struck a chord, and Kotis created the book, teaming up with composer Mark Hollman to write the lyrics. (Hollman created the music for Urinetown, and it is delightfully reminiscent of Kurt Weill's highly political Three Penny Opera, with jazzy shades of West Side Story thrown in for good measure.)


The musical takes place in an undisclosed city. For decades, a serious drought has inflicted on society with vast poverty, although callous business tycoons such as the main antagonist Cladwell B. Cladwell, have made a fortune through bribery and the monopolization of restrooms. All toilets have become property of his corporation "Urine Good Company." A brutal police force maintains order, sending violators of the law to a place called "Urinetown." Of course, thanks to the overly ambitious narrator, the audience soon learns that Urinetown doesn't exist; anyone who is sent to Urinetown is simply thrown off of a tall building, falling to their death.

Believe it or not, this is a comedy. At the heart of the story is a naïve young man, Bobby Strong, who decides to fight for freedom, inspired by the equally tender-hearted ingénue, Hope Cladwell. Their innate virtue and goodness lead them to the conclusion that changes must be made. The people have a right to use the restroom without taxation! Bobby is the first to become a revolutionary, and in the process makes some tough decisions (like kidnapping Hope, when he discovers that she is the daughter of the evil tycoon, Mr. Cladwell). More complications ensue when the revolutionaries which Bobby has mustered together decide they want to become violent, and they want to begin by killing poor Hope (as evident in the song, "Snuff that Girl").

--Wade Bradford

 

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