Just Kidding: Troupe Performs the Musical ‘Urinetown’
Bellarine Theatre Company will be performing the musical “Urinetown” this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19 at 7 p.m. and also Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19-20 at 3 p.m. at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies.
Urinetown? Really? You read it right.
“Nothing can kill a show like too much exposition,” one character tells another in the musical’s opening scene. “How about bad subject matter?” the other asks.
“Or a bad title, even? That could kill a show pretty good.”
Well, its title didn’t kill “Urinetown,” which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival and then had a short Off-Broadway run before hitting Broadway. Even 9-11 couldn’t kill “Urinetown,” which opened on Broadway on Sept. 20, 2001 – needless to say, a shaky time in New York’s theater district, considering the events nine days earlier still burning in the Financial District.
“Urinetown” not only lived but thrived, running for 965 performances, nominated for 10 Tony Awards including best musical, and winning three: best book of a musical, best original score, and best direction of a musical.
“Urinetown,” with a book by Greg Kotis, music by Mark Hollman, and lyrics by both, is a dark comedy. It sometimes reeks of a “South Park” episode, but it can more accurately be described as a satire of old-fashioned melodrama, the type where the beautiful young heroine is tied to the railroad tracks by a greedy banker. An immediate tip-off are the names of some main characters: Bobby Strong, Hope Cladwell, Penelope Pennywise and Little Sally. Why not Little Nell?
The show also has political undertows concerning monopolies, corruption and the dangers of revolutionary zeal, the last emphasized by its sampling of “Les Miz” at the end of Act I when barricades constructed from torn down restroom stalls are erected in the streets, with one member of the mob waving a large red flag.
Let’s take a brief look at the show’s book.
An unidentified city has been suffering through a decades-long drought, a la California. It has resulted in a severe water shortage. In order to preserve the precious resource, water has been cut off from homes so that residents have no choice but to use public toilets. As one line says, “Everyone has to use public bathrooms in order to take care of their private business.”
The problem is that they are pay toilets. And they’re not publicly owned, but rather the property of a corporation called Urine Good Company, UCG, headed by Caldwell B. Cladwell (Ian Mullin). Caldwell, thanks to the efforts of a bribe-taking Senator Fipp (Connor Morgan), is able to keep raising his prices.
The pressure is coming to a head in the city’s poorest neighborhood, serviced by Public Amenity #9, the filthiest urinal in town, run by Penelope Pennywise (Jessica Huch) and her assistant Bobby Strong (Mitchell Todd). Some people simply don’t have enough money to use the facilities. One, Bobby’s father “Old Man Strong” (Connor Morgan), begs to be allowed in but Penelope says no way and Bobby doesn’t back him up. Old Man Strong finally urinates in the street, breaking the “Public Health Act.” He’s dragged away by Officers Lockstock (Chris Huch) and Barrel (Alex Dubinsky) to be sent to Urinetown, the mythic penal colony from which nobody returns.
Actually, as Lockstock blurts out, “There is no Urinetown! We just kill people!”
Either way, it is a pretty grizzly future for anyone who breaks the rules.
Soon afterward, Bobby and the beautiful young innocent Hope (Carly Sica) meet and fall in love. But Bobby, upset over yet another fee hike and feeling blue for not helping his father, decides enough is enough and leads a pee-for-free rebellion. Little does he know his new sweetheart is the villainous Caldwell’s daughter.
When Caldwell and his henchmen decide to clamp down and come to give the young upstart a one way ticket to Urinetown, Bobby discovers the truth about Hope. Despite being deeply in love, he figures the only way to avoid his fate is to kidnap her and hold her hostage.
The rebels are in hiding. But when Bobby and his mother Josephine (Jill Bopp) go out to try to convince other rest room attendants to join the revolution, they fear they have been captured by Caldwell and the police, and they decide to kill Hope.
Bobby is, in fact, eventually lured into a meeting with Caldwell and, refusing a bribe, is thrown to his death off the tower of the UGC building. That’s the end of the revolution, right?
Wrong. A street urchin named Little Sally (a wonderfully cast Adina Paciello) returns to the rebel lair and tells them not only of Bobby’s death but his last words, “to fight for what they know is right.” Hope is saved by Penelope, who, despite being Caldwell’s former lover, had changed sides and now, disgusted by his greed, offers her life for Hope’s. The rebels, touched by Penelope’s change of tune, not only decide not to kill Hope but to allow her to become the revolution’s new leader.
They become a riotous mob, killing many of Caldwell’s cronies and, finally, the urinal tycoon himself. UGC is turned into the Bobby Strong Memorial Toilet Authority and all is right with the world.
Except… The French Revolution ate its own in the end. And doesn’t history have a way of repeating itself?
Tickets for “Urinetown” are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. There are also VIP tickets for $20. All may be purchased online by visiting the Bellarine Theatre Company’s website at bellarinetheatre.com or at the door. The Foundation of the Arts and Sciences is at 120 Long Beach Blvd. in the Loveladies neighborhood of Long Beach Township.
Call 609-661-2083 for further info.
— Rick Mellerup