The 2002 Broadway hit with the funny name, Urinetown, is set in a dystopian future in which an extreme water shortage and corrupt businessmen and politicians have resulted in private bathrooms being illegal. Everyone must pay to use the "public amenities," with ever-increasing fees. The difference between the haves and have-nots is extreme, with the populace living in poverty and saving every penny, while the owner of Urine Good Company, which controls the amenities, and his pals live in luxury. (You see why this story is so great, and a little scary?) The story is narrated by Officer Lockstock. His sidekick, Little Sally, is constantly asking him tough questions. Their conversation frequently breaks the 4th wall as they comment on the show at hand. As Ms. Pennywise fiercely enforces the fees, the hero of our story, Bobby Strong, decides that people shouldn't have to pay to pee, and leads them in a revolution to take back the toilets. Along the way he falls in love with the innocent and trusting Hope, daughter of the evil Mr. Cladwell. As we're told, this is not a happy musical. We don't get the happy ending we expect, but it sure is fun to watch it all unfold.*
|the cast of Urinetown (photo by Scott Pakudaitis)|
|Becca Hart and Austin Stole as Hope and Bobby with|
the cast (photo by Scott Pakudaitis)
Urinetown is one of my favorite musical theater scores to listen to (and sing along with in my car); it's so smart and clever and peppy. But it's not easy, with many overlapping parts and interweaving melodies. Music director Elise Beckel Santa makes it all sound great, leading the off stage five-piece band (we learned in the talkback that they're located in a 2nd floor dance studio and piped in due to space limitations backstage). Scenic designer Gabriel Gomez was also on hand at the talkback to share his inspirations for the set and how he recycled old set pieces (appropriate in a piece about sustainability). The TCTB had a chance to see the set up close, and it's incredibly detailed down to pee stains on the floor and plastic coins to be collected for the fee. But perhaps my favorite detail is the dull yellow droplets that adorn the upstairs railing.
At the talkback, someone mentioned a line in the new movie Hidden Figures about segregated bathrooms: we all pee the same color. And if you think about it, it really is the common denominator amongst us all (like the children's book Everybody Poops). I'm also reminded of the debate about bathroom laws and excluding transgender people from this most basic of human rights. This musical about bathroom rights may seem silly, but it's not far from reality, and represents our right to justice and equal access to all facets of life and society. The privilege to pee is something most of us take for granted (like many of our privileges), but Urinetown reminds us that not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and these privileges can be taken away if we don't stay alert.
If you haven't been up to Anoka lately to see what's happening at Lyric Arts, you're missing out. They've recently made the transition from community to professional theater, and are continuing to improve. They were kind enough to let me announce their upcoming season recently, which promises more good stuff to come. Urinetown continues through April 2 and is definitely worth the drive to Anoka (it's not really that far).
*Plot summary borrowed from my post about Jungle Theater's 2013 production.