Urine Credible




Book by Greg Kotis
Music by Mark Hollman
Lyrics by Greg Kotis & Mark Hollman
Directed by Tom Wojtunik
The Gallery Players (www.galleryplayers.com)
Equity Showcase (closed)

Review by Charles Battersby


Urinetown is one of the biggest successes of the Off-Off Broadway scene. It premiered in the 1999 Fringe Festival, and slowly clawed its way to an Off Broadway run a couple of years later. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, this quirky, offbeat, downtown show eventually made its way to Broadway, where it ran for over two years. Now, nearly three years later, the Gallery Players have brought it back to Off-Off Broadway, and the show feels perfectly at home here.


Urinetown is a zany musical farce set in a dystopian future where the world is struck with a draught so severe that water becomes too precious to be wasted on toilets, and private commodes have been banned altogether. The only way to relieve one’s self is to pay for that privilege at a public latrine, all of which are run by the monopolistic Urine Good Company (one of many witty pee jokes in the show).


If any lawless troublemakers try to pee in the bushes, or anywhere else not owned by Urine Good Company, they are carted off to the mysterious Urinetown, from whence no one ever returns. Inevitably, a hero arises to fight this injustice. The show follows the heroically handsome Bobby Strong as he struggles to free the people from the corporate claws clutching at their bladders. Along the way, the musical theatre genre as a whole is parodied, with Les Miserables as its main punching bag.


Although the story centers on Bobby Strong, most of the stage time goes to Little Sally and Officer Lockstock, who serve as narrators. Jon Frazier makes a great Lockstock, delivering his incredibly goofy narrative with a no-nonsense deadpan. Kat Aberle as Little Sally plays her pathos-inducing moppet as an over-the-top composite of Shirley Temple and Judy Garland. The two have excellent chemistry and get the show going right from the first scene.


The entire company does a great job too, notably Joshua James Campbell as reluctant revolutionary Bobby Strong, Kim Shipley as the gleefully evil Caldwell B. Cladwell, and Jennifer McCabe as Penelope Pennywise, who runs the UGC Public Amenity which is at the center of the show. Tom Wojtunik’s direction and Ryan Kasprzak’s choreography were exceptional as well. There must be a few theatre lovers who missed Urinetown its first time around, and it goes without saying that this production is the right choice if you haven’t caught it before. Longtime fans of the show should enjoy this run just as much as previous incarnations, too.


There might be a certain number of theatre fans who’ve worried that Urinetown is just two hours of pee jokes, without any substance. They’d be half right; there are plenty of wee-wee gags, but underneath all of the silliness, there is a serious message about conservation and overpopulation. There are a few lines that joke about how audiences won’t travel out to Brooklyn to see a show about how their lifestyle is unsustainable. In fact, the final line of the closing number is “Hail Malthus”, a reference to the 18th century mathematician who maintained that human population would eventually outgrow humanity’s ability to produce food (and fresh water).


The U.S. population hit 300 million in the middle of Urinetown's current run at the Gallery Players; it would be a shame if our 500 million grandchildren ended up living in Urinetown.


Also features:  Catia Ojeda, Tom Cleary, Daniel Haggard, Jan-Peter Pedross, Tauren Hagans, DeLon Grant, Allison Guinn, Mitchell Scott Shapiro, Adam Riccio, Jared R. Lopatin and Jean Liuzzi.


Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2006 Charles Battersby