Original Cast Recording
2003 National Tour
2014 West End
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Score
Urinetown: The Musical is a satirical comedy musical from 2001, with music by Mark Hollmann, lyrics by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and book by Kotis. It satirizes the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and municipal politics. The show also parodies musicals such as The Cradle Will Rock and Les Misérables, and the Broadway musical itself as a form. In reverse pantomime style, the unconventional plotline shatters audience expectations of a somewhat pleasant ending. The character of Bobby Strong was included on New York Theatre Monthly's list of "The 100 Greatest Roles in Musical Theatre".
Urinetown debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival, and then was produced Off-Broadway at the American Theatre for Actors, from May 6, 2001 to June 25, 2001. The musical then opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theatre, running from September 20, 2001 through January 18, 2004, after 25 previews and 965 performances.
It was directed by John Rando, and features music and lyrics by Mark Hollman, book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, and choreography by John Carrafa. The original cast included Hunter Foster (as Bobby Strong, later replaced by Tom Cavanagh), Jeff McCarthy (as Officer Lockstock), Nancy Opel (as Penelope Pennywise), John Cullum (as Caldwell B. Cladwell), Jennifer Laura Thompson (as Hope Cladwell), Spencer Kayden (as Little Sally), John Deyle (as Senator Fipp), and Ken Jennings (as Old Man Strong/Hot Blades Harry). Principal cast changes included James Barbour as Officer Lockstock, Carolee Carmello and Victoria Clark as Penelope Pennywise and Charles Shaughnessy as Caldwell B. Cladwell as well as Amy Spanger as Hope Cladwell. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won three.
The characters of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally are featured in what has become a yearly tradition at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS annual Gypsy of the Year benefit concert, in which the characters – portrayed by actors Jennifer Cody and Don Richard, both of whom understudied the roles in the original cast – perform a short comedy sketch making fun of current Broadway shows.
On 16 September 2013, it was announced the show would make its UK premiere in London's West End on 11 March 2014, following previews at the St. James Theatre from 22 February 2014. Booking until 3 May, the show is directed by Jamie Lloyd, design by Soutra Gilmour, choreography by Ann Yee, lighting design by Adam Silverman, sound design by Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster with musical supervision by Alan Williams.
Greg Kotis had the idea for Urinetown while traveling in Europe. A traveling student on a budget, he encountered a pay-per-use toilet, and began writing shortly thereafter, joining with Mark Hollmann for the journey to Broadway. Initially, no production companies were interested in optioning the musical, but finally the Neo-Futurists, an experimental theatre group from Chicago, agreed to produce Urinetown for their 1999-2000 season. Kotis, his wife, and original cast member Spencer Kayden belonged to the group. Plans with the Neo-Futurists later fell through, so John Clancy of the New York Fringe Festival accepted the show into the festival. Playwright David Auburn, a friend of Kotis and Hollmann, came to see the show and immediately called production company The Araca Group. The company optioned the musical and it opened Off Broadway at the American Theatre for Actors, transferring to Broadway in September 2001. Originally planned to open on September 13, the show contained several references that, after the September 11 attacks, would no longer be politically correct. Ultimately, only one line was removed from the script, and the show opened September 20, 2001.
Urinetown tells the story of Assistant Urinal Custodian Bobby Strong. The show opens with a grim welcome from Officer Lockstock, a policeman, assisted by the street urchin Little Sally. ("Too Much Exposition"). According to Lockstock and Little Sally, a twenty-year drought has caused a terrible water shortage, making private toilets unthinkable. All restroom activities are done in public toilets controlled by a megacorporation called "Urine Good Company" (or UGC). To control water consumption, people have to pay to use the amenities. There are harsh laws ensuring that people pay to pee, and if they are broken, the offender is sent to a penal colony called "Urinetown", never to return.
The oppressed masses huddle in line at the poorest, filthiest urinal in town, Public Amenity #9, which is run by the rigid, harshly authoritarian Penelope Pennywise and her assistant, dashing young everyman Bobby Strong. Trouble ensues when Bobby's father, Old Man Strong, cannot afford his urinal admission for the day and asks Pennywise to let him go free "just this once". After Old Man Strong's plea is dismissed ("It's a Privilege to Pee"), he urinates on the street and is soon arrested by Officers Lockstock and Barrel and escorted off to Urinetown. ("It's a Privilege to Pee - Reprise").
Later that day, in the corporate offices of Urine Good Company, the CEO, Caldwell B. Cladwell, is discussing the new fee hikes with Senator Fipp, a politician firmly in Cladwell's pocket, when Cladwell's beautiful daughter, Hope Cladwell, arrives on the scene as the UGC's new fax/copy girl. By way of introduction, the UGC staff sing a paean to their chief ("Mr Cladwell").
Officers Lockstock and Barrel discuss the journey to Urinetown and how it reduces everyone, even the toughest, to screams ("The Cop Song"). Hope enters and encounters Bobby Strong. The attraction is instant, and the two, joined by their belief in the power of the heart, sing about their hope for a new world ("Follow Your Heart").
Officer Lockstock and Little Sally discuss Urinetown. When Little Sally asks him what it is, Lockstock replies that its power lies in its mystery and he cannot flippantly reveal that "there is no Urinetown, we just kill people".
The next day, Cladwell's assistant, Mr McQueen, announces the new fee hikes set upon the urinals. Bobby concludes that the laws are wrong. Opening the doors of the urinal, despite Ms. Pennywise's protests, he begins a pee-for-free rebellion ("Look at the Sky").
At the offices of UGC, Cladwell is informed of the revolution, and when Hope is aghast at his vow to crush Bobby for his actions, Cladwell coldly advises her to stamp on the poor whenever she can ("Don't Be the Bunny").
At Public Amenity #9, Cladwell, Fipp, UGC staff, and police arrive to confront Bobby. Bobby discovers who Hope's father is, and, outnumbered, the rebels kidnap Hope and head to a secret hideout in the sewers ("Act One Finale").
The rebel poor are hiding in the sewers, holding Hope for ransom. Cladwell and the police are looking for them, and Bobby is hiding. The rebels wonder what Urinetown is, and everyone sings about the power of the mysterious no-man's land. Little Sally eventually concludes that Urinetown is a metaphysical place where everyone is down-and-out ("What is Urinetown?").
Down in the sewers, the rebels are driven mad and are close to lynching Hope in revenge for her father's crimes ("Snuff That Girl") when Bobby bursts in and reminds the rebels of their revolutionary purpose with a rousing gospel song ("Run, Freedom, Run!").
Invigorated, the poor rally around Bobby, but balk at his statement that the violent fight could take decades. Just then, Pennywise bursts into the secret hideout telling Bobby that Cladwell wants him to come to the UGC headquarters. Bobby goes, but only after being reminded by the impatient rebels that if anything happens to him, Hope will be killed. Pennywise fiercely swears that if any of the rebels harm Hope, she will have Bobby sent off to Urinetown. Bobby says goodbye to Hope, apologizes, and tells her to think of what they have ("Follow Your Heart - Reprise").
At the UGC headquarters, Bobby is offered a suitcase full of cash and full amnesty to the rebels as long as Hope is returned and the people agree to the new fee hikes. Bobby refuses, and demands free access for the people. Cladwell orders the cops to escort Bobby to Urinetown---even if it means that the rebel poor will kill Hope. Horrified, Pennywise marvels at the depth of Cladwell's evil. Cladwell has her arrested as well. She, Hope, and Fipp sing of their regrets of falling for Cladwell's schemes ("Why Did I Listen To That Man?"). Meanwhile, Bobby is led to the top of the UGC building, and learns the truth. There is no Urinetown, they just kill people. Lockstock and Barrel throw him off the building.
Little Sally returns to the hideout in a shocked daze, having just heard Bobby's last words. The Ghost of Bobby sings, along with Little Sally, his last words directed to Hope. ("Tell Her I Love Her"). His last words encourage the rebels to fight for what they know is right, and that the time is always now. Just as the rebels are about to murder Hope in revenge, Pennywise enters and offers herself instead, proclaiming herself to be Hope's mother. The poor reel back, shocked by this unexpected twist.
The rebels march to the office of UGC, killing Officer Barrel, Senator Fipp, and Mrs Millennium on the way ("We're Not Sorry").
Upon entering Cladwell's office, the rebel poor seize him and send him to Urinetown to avenge Bobby's death.
With the town at peace at last, all believe that the age of fear is over and that they can look forward to a bright new day. The Urine Good Company is renamed "The Bobby Strong Memorial Toilet Authority" and the people are henceforth allowed to pee whenever they like, as much as they like, for as long as they like, and with whomever they like ("I See A River").
However, the town's newfound urinary bliss is short-lived, as its limited water supply quickly disappears. Ironically, as draconian as the UGC's rules were, they kept the people from squandering the limited water supply; now, much of the population dies of thirst. It is insinuated that Hope suffers a terrible death at the hand of the people for her actions in depleting the water supply, but adds that the remaining townsfolk will wage on, their town now quite like the imaginary "Urinetown" with which they had been threatened for years.
Original Broadway cast
- Bobby Strong - Hunter Foster
- Hope Cladwell - Jennifer Laura Thompson
- Officer Lockstock - Jeff McCarthy
- Little Sally - Spencer Kayden
- Caldwell B. Cladwell - John Cullum
- Penelope Pennywise - Nancy Opel
- Bobby Strong – The dashing young everyman who works for Miss Pennywise as the Assistant Custodian at the poorest, filthiest urinal in town; the eventual protagonist and romantic hero who starts a revolution, and falls in love with Hope Cladwell along the way.
- Caldwell B. Cladwell – The evil president and owner of the Urine Good Company, a miserly moneygrubber who gleefully exploits the poor.
- Hope Cladwell – Cladwell's ravishingly beautiful daughter, torn between her love for her father and her new love for Bobby. Having just returned from the Most Expensive University in the World, she eventually joins Bobby as part of the Revolution.
- Officer Lockstock – The policeman in charge of finding guilty pee-ers.
- Little Sally – A precocious, thoroughly irreverent and very intelligent street urchin; the quasi-narrator who always outsmarts Lockstock, and constantly questions the play's logic.
- Penelope Pennywise – The tough, jaded warden of the poorest, filthiest urinal in town. A shrewd, penny-scrounging cheapskate, Pennywise is a figure of authority and lives to maintain order at the public bathrooms, but harbors a surprising secret.
- Officer Barrel – Lockstock's partner. He harbors a surprising secret.
- Mr McQueen - Cladwell's assistant. A sneaky man who will do anything to save himself.
- Senator Fipp – A greedy, cowardly politician in Cladwell's pocket.
- Joseph "Old Man" Strong – Bobby's rebellious father, whose refusal to pay the fee causes him to be sent to Urinetown.
- Josephine "Ma" Strong – Bobby's mother, a strong-willed old woman who is able to withstand the hard hand life has dealt her.
- Hot Blades Harry - A dangerous and unpredictable rebel.
- Little Becky Two-Shoes - A young, pregnant woman. Harry's "Mate".
- Soupy Sue - An affectionate member of the gang.
- Tiny Tom - A confused man-boy.
- Robby the Stockfish - A poor rebel.
- Billy Boy Bill - A poor rebel.
- Mrs Millenium - Office worker who aspires to be Cladwell’s Head Secretary.
- Dr. Billeaux - A scientist for Urine Good Company.
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
- Weber, Bruce. "Review:Tough Love: Wicked Antics Taunt Showbiz". The New York Times, May 7, 2001
- Jones, Kenneth."Urinetown Tour Launches June 24 at San Fran's ACT With Holgate, Noll, Hewitt", June 24, 2003
- Pincus-Roth, Zachary."Urinetown Broadway Team Accuses Two Regional Productions of Plagiarism", playbill.com, November 15, 2006
- Vargas, Robert."Gypsy of the Year Skits Target Billy Elliot, Click Tracks, Megamixes and More", playbill.com, December 10, 2008
- "St James confirms UK premiere of Urinetown". whatsonstage.com. Whats On Stage. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- "URINETOWN to Get West End Premiere at St. James Theatre in 2014". broadwayworld.com. Broadway World. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- "Urinetown to Receive U.K. Premiere in New Production by Jamie Lloyd at London's St. James Theatre". playbill.com. Playbill. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- Sommer, Elyse and Gutman, Les.Urinetown notes and reviews curtainup.com, May 4, 2001 and September 20, 2001
- Kotis, Greg; Hollman, Mark. Urinetown, the musical (Musical Script). New York: Music Theatre International. p. 3. "Lockstock: ...these public bathrooms are controlled by a private company..."
- Steven Winn. 'Millie' tops the Tonys with six / Albee's 'Goat' named best play -- 'Urinetown,' 'Lives' multiple winners. SFGate.
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