Urinetown is both bleak and brilliant. Set in a future dystopia where water is so precious a commodity that all people have to pay for the ‘privilege to pee’, else be sent away to the mysterious ‘Urinetown’, this is a biting satire that manages to delight and appal in equal measure.
This is a biting satire that manages to delight and appal in equal measure.
The show is irreverent in its humour, sending up classic tropes of musicals, with one of the sadistic policemen doubling as a narrator who points out any and all plot holes, narrative devices and big song and dance numbers. With such a knowing look at the musical form, it has the perfect set-up, with fantastic melodies and harmonies, one particularly excellent piece of choreography, and of course a gushy love story to round it all off. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the show, presumably being thrown in because the musical form dictates there should be two young naïve lovebirds, complete with Romeo and Juliet-style forbidden love and cringeworthy love duet. While all other parts of the show satirise and mock, this feels too lazy and simply isn’t as strong lyrically or musically, with Bobby Strong himself being one of the weakest singers in the cast.
It’s the supporting characters who make this show: Little Sally, a destitute orphan, and Ms. Pennywise, the morally questionable proprietor of Public Amenity #9, and the larger-than-life villain, Mr. Cladwell who truly shine. These stellar performances, coupled with powerhouse songs, carry the show’s anti-capitalist and environmentalist message, as faces of poverty and corruption. Despite being witty throughout, this cautionary tale has the power to shock and leave a lasting impact, ultimately making hope seem like a naïve and selfish concept. Expect fun, thrills and tunes that will stick in your head for days – but you won’t necessarily be leaving the theatre with a big smile on your face.