First, the history. Urinetown opened at the 1999 Fringe Festival in NYC and earned nearly unanimous rave reviews. Word of mouth spread, earning the show a full production Off Broadway at the American Theatre of Actors. Once the preview period was over yet more amazing reviews came in, and the show will now move to the overpriced stages of Broadway sometime in July.
What has made the show so successful is its combination of intelligence and social consciousness. Despite having a message of its own, Urinetown jabs mercilessly at the very conventions of politically oriented musical theater familiar in the works of Kurt Weill and Marc Blitzstein. Through its own awareness of these traditions, Urinetown parodies the popular techniques of musical theater as well; spontaneous song and dance, saccharine protagonists, and hopelessly optimistic storytelling all take shots throughout the show. In keeping with the shows intent, the music and direction satirize not only earlier theater pieces, but makes fun of contemporary shows such as "Les Miserables" and "West Side Story" as well. For a better sense of the show, read the plot synopsis below, taken from the official site.
A terrible water shortage has crippled the Gotham-like town that serves as the setting for Urinetown The Musical. In a mad attempt to regulate water consumption, the government has outlawed the use of private toilets. The citizenry must use public, pay-per-use amenities owned and operated by Urine Good Company (or "UGC") a private corporation run by the corrupt and iron-fisted Caldwell B. Cladwell.
The musical opens with the entrance of Officer Lockstock, a tough talking beat cop who doubles as the play's narrator and Caldwell B. Cladwell's ruthless enforcer. In classic Brechtian fashion, Lockstock addresses the audience with the help of Little Sally, an orphaned street urchin, regarding the prevailing disaster that has ravaged the land and left the people scrounging for spare change to pay the constantly rising amenity entrance fees.
The privilege to pee is expensive, draining and dangerous. Anyone who tries to outsmart the law or refuses to pay to pee is immediately and without question hauled off to Urinetown by Officer Lockstock. "What is Urinetown?" Nobody knows, for those who are sent there are never heard from again.
But it's really a love story and there's a revolution all before the end of Act I.
Will the revolution succeed? Can true love be found in Urinetown? Will the political elite maintain control? Is "free access" even possible? All these questions and more will be answered in - Urinetown: The Musical.
Possibly unnecessary disclaimer
: One of the show's favorite recurring joke
s is the continuous referencing of it's title. For a musical to be a good sell
, it must have a universally appealing name destined to bring in the all important tourist
profits. Judging a work of art
on that merit alone, which show is bound to be more successful- Cats