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Urinetown: The Musical

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Winner of three Tony Awards, including Best Book, Urinetown is a tale of greed, corruption, love, and revolution in a time when water is worth its weight in gold.


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Winner of three Tony Awards, including Best Book, Urinetown is a tale of greed, corruption, love, and revolution in a time when water is worth its weight in gold.

30 review for Urinetown: The Musical

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kaion

    Lampshading your own shitty writing doesn't make your writing less shitty, and it most certainly does not count as comedy. The completely nonsensical premise, one-dimensional characters, dumb plot, unimaginative setting, and lack of good songs* does not make this musical any less of a chore to get through. Congrats, I get it. It's Brechtian. You have successfully alienated your audience. *"Run Freedom Run" rises to the acceptably mediocre level. I struggle to name another number. Wait there's also Lampshading your own shitty writing doesn't make your writing less shitty, and it most certainly does not count as comedy. The completely nonsensical premise, one-dimensional characters, dumb plot, unimaginative setting, and lack of good songs* does not make this musical any less of a chore to get through. Congrats, I get it. It's Brechtian. You have successfully alienated your audience. *"Run Freedom Run" rises to the acceptably mediocre level. I struggle to name another number. Wait there's also the one-joke one about killing bunny rabbits.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shane Hurst

    This is a delightful piece of theatre, especially for those who have a bit of background in theatre and for those who enjoy self-referential irony. Still, even the average theatre-goer looking for a bit of entertainment will find something to love in this piece. Urinetown owes much to Brecht and his deliberate overplaying of theatrical and societal convention. The characters are all clearly "types" or "ideas" of people in the modern world. Without giving too much away, you have the personally mo This is a delightful piece of theatre, especially for those who have a bit of background in theatre and for those who enjoy self-referential irony. Still, even the average theatre-goer looking for a bit of entertainment will find something to love in this piece. Urinetown owes much to Brecht and his deliberate overplaying of theatrical and societal convention. The characters are all clearly "types" or "ideas" of people in the modern world. Without giving too much away, you have the personally motivated hero (Bobby), who is in love with the motively-conflicted Hope, who just happens to be the daughter of the main villain, Cladwell. They fight out a battle over the premise [essentially, drought and the collusion between industry and government has led to a policy of forcing people to pay to use public toilets to relieve themselves] along with the local law (Dickensianly-named Lockstock and Barrel) and corruption at the local level (Penny) and the "Legislature" level (Senator Fipp). The (spoiler-free) plot may sound a tad confusing, but the writing is clear, telegraphing the characters and situations with a respectable Brechtian forthrightness. There is also something endearing about this piece (something Brecht would shudder at ). There is an earnestness to it. It tries to set up the plot in a a hokey, presentational way, but the viewer does come to care for the hero and appreciate the inner conflict of characters like Penny. Even the politics of the musical leave the audience a bit uncertain. As greedy as the uppity-ups may be, there seems to be a real problem the lower-downs may not understand. It references the troubling extremes of both crony corporatism and grassroots populism. My advice? Just sit back and enjoy the theatrical ride. Root for the hero, boo the villain, but also be sure not to read TOO much into anything. Above all, What I get from Urinetown is: think freely even if you can't pee freely.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Quick! How many science fiction-themed musicals can you name? ("The Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked" don't count.) I know, I know! Space Port! What do you mean you've never heard of Space Port, philistine?! (Admittedly that's an unproduced pastiche show I wrote about an erstwhile shuttle jockey with astraphobia.) So let's see, there's Little Shop of Horrors, Rocky Horror [Picture Show], Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds (sort of, inasmuch as this is more of a concert piece than traditional music theater) Quick! How many science fiction-themed musicals can you name? ("The Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked" don't count.) I know, I know! Space Port! What do you mean you've never heard of Space Port, philistine?! (Admittedly that's an unproduced pastiche show I wrote about an erstwhile shuttle jockey with astraphobia.) So let's see, there's Little Shop of Horrors, Rocky Horror [Picture Show], Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds (sort of, inasmuch as this is more of a concert piece than traditional music theater), the utterly wretched Superman the Musical, and… and… and… um… well, on the jukebox front, I suppose there's Return to the Forbidden Planet and the rarissima adaptation of Earth Girls are Easy. And.... that's about it. Why do I know all this? Because following the Museum of Science Fiction's inaugural Escape Velocity event, I was tasked with trying to find a show that we might co-produce at a subsequent con. We just showcased Rocky Horror, and it's probably Forbidden Planet we want, but as I have a cousin who works for Music Theater International, I thought I'd see what else is around. Turns out there's (not) much more in the offing. (Starmites or Bat Boy anyone?) She let me preview three MTI-controlled shows: Jekyll and Hyde, The Toxic Avenger, and Urinetown. Having now read each one and listened to their respective scores, I thought I might review them all at the same time. Each illuminates a different aspect of theatrical construction. Jekyll and Hyde is an example of straightforward craft. It's a workmanlike vehicle in the family of melodramatic, semi-operatic spectaculars epitomized by Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Sweeney Todd, it just doesn't rise to their levels of quality, rather falling on the spectrum somewhere around Ca Ira.JEKYLL: John. You remember my father… before… his mind and spirit were… extremely strong, weren't they? UTTERSON (moved): He was the finest man I ever knew. JEKYLL (to himself): I must do it… for his sake. [Act I, Scene 6] Musical theater doesn't have much stage time to devote to character motivation. Given how long it takes to sing a single sentence, nuance is most often left to be conveyed by acting and underscoring. Even so, I expect more from a musical than an orphan, overt line reading. Worse, multiple numbers here devoted to shall-I-shan't-I handwringing get in the way of opportunities for good, chew-the-scenery romping, the latter compressed into a single montage number. Whose fault was this? Leslie Bricusse, whose best work was written alongside Anthony Newley in the early 1970s, appears to have done a solid job adapting book and lyrics from Robert Louis Stevenson. Alas, his partner here was Frank Wildhorn. Remember The Civil War? The Scarlet Pimpernel? Bonnie and Clyde? What about Dracula the Musical? (And no, I am not making that last one up.) Wildhorn, who seems to specialize in schmaltzy ditties with unsurprising melodic patterns, can do nothing to buttress the weaknesses of the book. Jekyll may have been his lone theatrical success, though, thanks in no small part to the one or two numbers like Someone Like You. What more can I say? It's a serviceable, if silly, show featuring the titular man/monster in a backstory- and character-development-free love triangle with a fiancee and a hooker with a heart of gold. In the right production, it might even make it as high camp, but the show probably takes itself too seriously for that to work out with the effectiveness of a Miss Saigon. By contrast, consider The Toxic Avenger, a show with no aspirations or pretensions even to mediocrity. Based on the eponymous B-Movie, this trashy trainwreck of a show succeeds or fails on the strength of the conviction that over-the-top performances, sets, and makeup can spin up lazy writing into the appearance of an effective postmodern satire. This may require a self-aware audience to dupe itself into mistaking adolescent shock-schlock for irreverence, but never you mind. We will boldly go where others wisely do not bother to tread. MA: You stay away from my Melvin! For the first time he's successful and he's in love, even if it is with a blind librarian. MAYOR: Blind librarian? Aha! So he's been hiding out with her! MA: Me and my big mouth! … MAYOR: I will find him, I will destroy him, and until I do, Tromaville is under Marshall Law! [sic] MA: Marshall law! You're a fascist! MAYOR: Well, you know what YOU ARE… MAYOR/MA (alternately): You're a bitch! You're a slut! You're a liar! You're a whore! [Act 1, Scene 12] This act closer is actually one of the wittier dialogues/songs. Theatergoers flocking to a show like Toxic Avenger are probably not looking for subtlety, and the best face I can put on this is to suggest the work aims for dadaism, more Ubu Roi-style slapstick than farce. It's a low bar easily and immediately hurdled from the energy derived in concentrating a cast of thousands into a quick-change quintet. This is a production-dependent phenomenon, and note that I've said little about the music or plot yet. Suffice it to say that even a pure Bon Jovi jukebox approach would have produced a stronger score, and as for the latter, well, if the broad outline of the book tracks that of Jekyll and Hyde, at least the story provides its cardboard characters something of an arc. Still, Toxic Avenger stands in stark contrast to and really helps one appreciate a show with equal irreverence and legitimate satirical bite, namely... Urinetown: The Musical - Let me leave the plot synopsis to the author:LITTLE SALLY: Say, Officer Lockstock, is this where you tell the audience about the water shortage? LOCKSTOCK: What's that, Little Sally? LITTLE SALLY: You know, the water shortage. The hard times. The drought. A shortage so awful that private toilets eventually become unthinkable. A premise so absurd that -- LOCKSTOCK: Whoa there, Little Sally. Not all at once. They'll hear more about the water shortage in the next scene. LITTLE SALLY: Oh, I guess you don't want to overload them with too much exposition, huh? LOCKSTOCK: Everything in its time, Little Sally. You're too young to understand it now, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition. LITTLE SALLY: How about bad subject matter? LOCKSTOCK: Well -- LITTLE SALLY: Or a bad title, even? That could kill a show pretty good. LOCKSTOCK: Well, Little Sally, suffice it to say that in Urinetown (the musical) everyone has to use public bathrooms in order to take care of their private business. That's the central conceit of the showww! [sic, Act I, Scene 1, page 2]What's weird about Urinetown is less its central conceit than its hyper-self-conscious approach. It seems less a genuine social satire, than a parody of a Berthold Brecht/ Clifford Odets polemic, given that it uses direct address to the audience not to emphasize its subject matter, but rather to call attention to, criticize, and apologize for its class warfare theme and the stridency of its choral anthems. All the characters are farcical gee-whiz naifs or unteachable true believers, whose respective venality effects the same consequences, is equally sent up for ridicule, and which ultimately leads to a conclusion that does more to undermine all the precedent action than to cap it off. Urinetown's cynical messaging suggests that human frailty and stupidity render mutual consideration irrelevant, a futile exercise. Regardless of intent, poor execution and pervasive myopia doom all to destruction. Perhaps this is a commentary on incompetence, or maybe just another way of flipping the script on leftist playwrights. Whatever the show purports to "say" -- something surely dictated by performance -- the book (and score) remain strong enough to command attention and convey some sort of meaning. Every bit as flippant as Jekyll and Hyde is overearnest, Urinetown is a more solid entertainment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    Please note this review is for the Music Theatre International script. Perfect example of how a good production can radically improve a mediocre script with a fresh interpretation. While originally written as satire, this is now something I can actually see happening. Despite being typically staged like we never left the dust bowl, it is easy to imagine our capitalistic society would turn into this once they could no longer ignore climate change. When not hiding behind jokes, it is truly a though Please note this review is for the Music Theatre International script. Perfect example of how a good production can radically improve a mediocre script with a fresh interpretation. While originally written as satire, this is now something I can actually see happening. Despite being typically staged like we never left the dust bowl, it is easy to imagine our capitalistic society would turn into this once they could no longer ignore climate change. When not hiding behind jokes, it is truly a thought provoking and terrifying work. Don’t get the MTI script though. It was riddled with spelling errors and seemed like entire sections had been cut. Characters that weren’t listed would pop up out of nowhere for a few lines of dialogue and then completely disappear again. The numbering of the score indicated several songs had been mangled as well.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Hobbs

    Avid theatre goers will most likely get the hilarious jokes and references interlaced throughout the show. I do wish they had chosen a different title however, because it’s a fabulously entertaining show that I wish more high schools would produce. But they don’t because too many people judge a show by its cover/title. If you have any sense of humor, you will greatly enjoy this show! And ironically, especially compared to most modern musicals, most of the jokes are “clean” (besides the inevitabl Avid theatre goers will most likely get the hilarious jokes and references interlaced throughout the show. I do wish they had chosen a different title however, because it’s a fabulously entertaining show that I wish more high schools would produce. But they don’t because too many people judge a show by its cover/title. If you have any sense of humor, you will greatly enjoy this show! And ironically, especially compared to most modern musicals, most of the jokes are “clean” (besides the inevitable potty jokes).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gracie

    I loved it! I listened along with the Original Broadway Cast Recording, and it was such a fun experience. I loved how the ending was not what you expected, and that characters from the show actually narrated it. However, I have to give it four stars because the ending felt a little rushed with the dialogue, and it seemed like the writers just needed to move the plot along. Overall, I really enjoyed it, and it's definitely one you should check out!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily Giuffre

    One of the funniest musicals of a corrupt bureaucratic system that has a monopoly on public restrooms. Could be about anything else but this is on the use of public restrooms. Maybe not what you're thinking but if you have a chance to se the musical, do!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maria Daniela

    It is indeed a privilege to pee. Wish I could see the dance numbers

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kimmy

    probably the funniest play I've had to read for my page to stage class so far

  10. 4 out of 5

    shinji

    this is.......... fun....................... not sure how i feel..... an okay time

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I worked stage crew for the first time for a production of this play at my high school and it was some of the most fun I have ever had, the play is funny and the music is amazing to belt out together in groups.

  12. 5 out of 5

    J.V. Seem

    Years ago, my better half Magnus, brought this script to our theatre group, in hopes that it could be staged. Amateur theatre companies like ours had staged it in Sweden and Denmark, thanks to amateur-friendly rights holders. We just had no Norwegian script. A former member, Andreas, took the initiative to have it translated, and did re-write a song, but a different production was starting up, and everyone soon had other things to think about. Every damn time we've discussed possible future projec Years ago, my better half Magnus, brought this script to our theatre group, in hopes that it could be staged. Amateur theatre companies like ours had staged it in Sweden and Denmark, thanks to amateur-friendly rights holders. We just had no Norwegian script. A former member, Andreas, took the initiative to have it translated, and did re-write a song, but a different production was starting up, and everyone soon had other things to think about. Every damn time we've discussed possible future projects, Urinetown has come up. Like "Maybe we can finally do Urinetown! ...no, wait...". No one's had the time or energy to tackle the script, there's so much work with a production in itself, when you already have a script. And translating a play is easy. Translating a musical is hard. Very hard. You don't only have to be a translator, but also a poet and a songwriter. Luckily, I am all those things. I recently became unemployed, and therefore my theatre crowd got even more important than before. I also needed a project to keep me busy. I thought, why not combine the two? So, I told everyone: You want a script? You'll get a script. Urinetown the musical tells the story of life in a dystopian town with a severe water shortage. A shortage that has lasted for twenty years, so bad that private toilets became unthinkable. Outlawed, in fact. Instead, everyone has to use public bathrooms to take care of their business. All these are owned by a private company with ruthlessly high prices. And as Little Sally says, "You can't just go in the bushes either!". That's illegal, an exiling offense, that obligates a trip to the feared Urinetown. Naturally, in all this bladder oppression, there eventually starts a revolution, with a love story intertwined. However, those hoping for a sunny, happy ending must think twice. Urinetown is dark satire and wordplay, interwoven with winks to other musicals. I have a complete translated first scene, which includes three songs, and the enthusiasm has been very encouraging. People are reading, listening and the rights have been checked, and are good to go. I hope we'll be able to bring this to the stage.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    I have seen Urinetown produced twice in the last three years, so I definitely had more than a passing familiarity with the story and the music. Neither production struck me as particularly exciting or interesting (some great moments, yes, but beyond that, "conceptually muddled" is the best phrase I can think of); however, my appreciation for what the script is trying to do is definitely heightened after reading this. The satire and "meta-ness" of the script is much clearer than what was presente I have seen Urinetown produced twice in the last three years, so I definitely had more than a passing familiarity with the story and the music. Neither production struck me as particularly exciting or interesting (some great moments, yes, but beyond that, "conceptually muddled" is the best phrase I can think of); however, my appreciation for what the script is trying to do is definitely heightened after reading this. The satire and "meta-ness" of the script is much clearer than what was presented in either production, that is for sure. I like the "message" but I think the writing is a little too aware of how clever it is (reading the introduction by the authors confirms that, in my opinion.) Some of the self-aware references by the characters literally telling the audience what is happening, what just happened, or what is about to happen in the next scene is funny at times, but ultimately it wears on me. The play-on-words is funny too, but a bit on the nose. Still though, it's entertaining and, if you're in the mood, a piece to make you think, so it's certainly worth reading for those who love theatre. And with its more-than-a-little-obvious references to a wide variety of shows, from Les Mis to Guys and Dolls, it's worthwhile reading especially for MUSICAL theatre enthusiasts.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Greg Kerestan

    "Urinetown" is a very clever piece of theatre, and it succeeds largely on its cleverness. The songs are often good but few are truly great, and the winking, perpetually meta-theatrical sense of humor can grate on your nerves if you aren't already a fan of the tongue-in-cheek comic sensibility of the Internet era and Tina Fey-penned comedies. As a satire on the Brechtian socialist musicals "The Cradle Will Rock" and "Threepenny Opera," "Urinetown" teeters between anti-capitalist agitprop and libe "Urinetown" is a very clever piece of theatre, and it succeeds largely on its cleverness. The songs are often good but few are truly great, and the winking, perpetually meta-theatrical sense of humor can grate on your nerves if you aren't already a fan of the tongue-in-cheek comic sensibility of the Internet era and Tina Fey-penned comedies. As a satire on the Brechtian socialist musicals "The Cradle Will Rock" and "Threepenny Opera," "Urinetown" teeters between anti-capitalist agitprop and libertarian fairy tale by inverting the essential populist belief of the aforementioned works: here, the Powers That Be are cruel and capricious but right, while the socially activated Working Poor are idealistic and well-meaning but ultimately wrongheaded. But Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman are more concerned with poking fun than with actually raising awareness, so questions of the necessity of privatized corporations, human rights in an age of economic or ecological crisis, and whether or not capital punishment or police brutality are appropriate are raised but ultimately handwaved. The play comes off as both a frothy comedy, and a troubling, implication-laden political satire.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chuck O'Connor

    This is one of those works that would benefit from the possibility of 1/2-star Goodreads ratings. I think it is more a 2 and 1/2 star rather than a 2 star but is not worthy of being a 3-star, or average work. There are interesting ideas here but the play suffers from a "meta" aesthetic consonant with a self-conscious pre-9/11 culture that now seems self-righteous, cynical and, most damning, "twee" (precious in its intellectualism). There are important ideas here (e.g. the decline of society due This is one of those works that would benefit from the possibility of 1/2-star Goodreads ratings. I think it is more a 2 and 1/2 star rather than a 2 star but is not worthy of being a 3-star, or average work. There are interesting ideas here but the play suffers from a "meta" aesthetic consonant with a self-conscious pre-9/11 culture that now seems self-righteous, cynical and, most damning, "twee" (precious in its intellectualism). There are important ideas here (e.g. the decline of society due to environmental disaster, the sustaining feeling of ideological faith vs. the sustaining policy of empiricism, scarcity as understood by socialism vs. capitalism) but the form elicits an irony that exempts the audience from catharsis, and therefore change, due to its autistic tone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    A meta-musical to die for. Unapologetic and even more relevant now that there's the Occupy movements. It's a smooth read and the humor is left up to actors (best decision). I still chuckle every time I think of Lockstock and Barrel. My vote goes to Little Sally for best character. The love story is as paper-thin as all musical love stories - what sets it apart (as the authors state in their intros) is the lyrics. Nothing like a little Heart Anatomy 101 to break apart trite & gooey sentiments. I A meta-musical to die for. Unapologetic and even more relevant now that there's the Occupy movements. It's a smooth read and the humor is left up to actors (best decision). I still chuckle every time I think of Lockstock and Barrel. My vote goes to Little Sally for best character. The love story is as paper-thin as all musical love stories - what sets it apart (as the authors state in their intros) is the lyrics. Nothing like a little Heart Anatomy 101 to break apart trite & gooey sentiments. I wish I'd had an opportunity to see a complete production live.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Well, I'm sort of lying - I didn't read the book; I read the script for the play. But they don't have that as an option to put up here, and I think that it counts as reading, so I'm adding the book. :) Tabor is doing this play this weekend, and the actors told me that I'd get more out of it if I read the script ahead of time, so I did. It's witty and perceptive social commentary, with a unexpected twist at the end. I bet the book is good too!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Droid16

    It helped immensely that Urinetown is one of my favorite musicals to watch or perform in. What makes this a must READ is the accompanying 30 pages of back story provided by the creative team of Greg Kotis (for book) and Mark Hillman (for score). The chronicalling of the unproducable musical about government regulated toilets and the oppressed, both in spirit and in bladder poor, is just right to set up the reading of the show itself.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marina Pierce

    I love the humor and comedy in this satire. Each of the characters have strong individual story lines, and developmental points. I enjoy the romance of Hope and Bobby, and the trials they are facing. The music is enlightening, while still dealing with real life problems. While this is still a comedy, it is also slyly shedding light on many issues that are going on in everyday life. I love this show, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the script.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I had to read this musical for a drama class during my last quarter at Davis. It was assigned because the drama department was also putting on the show. Actually, I played in the pit, so I know the show pretty well. Musically, the show was pretty good. It lacked some things that I like to hear in musicals, like a strong musical theme. The lyrics and lines were very well written and funny.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Briggs

    dead on arrival. charmless, low-reference, and bereft of wit. every lyric and note farts itself out painfully, like a funeral dirge for your most boring aunt months later: I was kidding when I wrote the above. 5 stars. I love this musical, thankfully. And it's one of the few musicals I love.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Never saw the show and felt I needed to make up for that fact. I think this is one of those "you just had to be there" instances. Despite having listened to and liked a lot of the music, I couldn't find this to be a compelling read. Perhaps the level of satire just doesn't translate well to the page. Alas, hopefully I can catch it onstage someday.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peyton

    With a ridiculous premise, an bizarre title, and some of the best lyrics this side of Sondheim, how could this not be a great script? As with any stage show, reading is a pale substitute for viewing; however, Kotis and Hollmann's humor, wit, and razor-sharp cynicism are still fully evident.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    I finished reading this book in an hour or so, and I really enjoyed the introduction that showed the progression from Off-Off-Broadway into the show it is today. It's an interesting musical; not my favorite, but it has good gags and I enjoy Lockstock as the narrator.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kailey

    I love this musical I am currently in it playing Little Sally...(A main character) and it a very hillarious script/play

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mkrause

    So delightful. I hope I never get thrown into Urinetown, but with the strong satire and the joyous sarcasm, perhaps I would enjoy it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Edmund Fisher

    two words: hilarious. hilarious.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    My niece Amy will be in this play/musical and thought I'd add it to my "to read" list! It's supposed to be hilarious.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Definatley better to see on stage, (By the way, it is SO funny on stage,) but the writting is so clever that reading it still makes you laugh.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Funny, irreverent, and well written.

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