2 june, 2006
I have had many people write to me to ask me to say a few words about the play I did on Broadway: URINETOWN The Musical. I understand that some schools are considering it as an option for a high school or college production, but hesitant to do it because of the title of the show! I think you could not pick a better show for a high school or college.
The deeply thoughtful message of the play concerning abuse of power, corruption and oppression is wrapped in a deliciously anarchic and satirical coating that appeals directly to the sensibilities of just the kind of blossoming minds you find on campuses.
The inspiration for the piece came from the author's travels through Europe on a dime, where he found himself spending an exorbitant percentage of his budget on public toilets...yes, you PAY to pee in many European countries. Ruminating on this punitive tax, he found himself in Romania at a rally for Dictator Ceausescu. The scenes of brutish crowd control and intimidation linked with the prior injustice and....voila...URINETOWN.
The sense of parody and affectionate satire extends to the beautiful, yet comic score. This is a show that won three Tony Awards, remember, and THAT is not easy! Do not be put off by the cheeky title, look beneath the merely scatological and find a truly remarkable and utterly appropriate show that you will enjoy both in the watching AND the playing.
3 february, 2004
WOW! Was I dreaming, or did I really sing and dance on Broadway for five months?!
I am now home in Santa Monica, returned to the bosom of my family, and I have to say the whole experience seems like one of those dreams you wake up from with a broad grin on your face and a start because of how REAL it all seemed. Of course, this was a wonderful dream. Despite my trepidation at being away for so long from my family, I threw myself into the whole New York experience from day one. I worked with some exceptional people, who quickly became very important to me, I met some other wonderful people who helped make this a very special time for me. I went to "First Nights," I appeared in a memorable "Reading" of "Auntie Mame" with Charles Busch and Swoosie Kurtz. I drank cocktails at Joe Allens and celebrated the New Year in Times Square.
I think one of the reasons it all seems so distant now is that it was a very COMPLETE experience. Among other things, it was not planned that I should actually close the show. I was to leave in the second week of February and someone else was then to have taken over from me. As it turned out, the show closed January 18th because the Theatre was going to be knocked down to make way for another Bank building! So, I found myself onstage as the final curtain came down on the Broadway Production of "Urinetown The Musical." Though this was sad and unnerving for all the actors who now had to find a new job ( including myself!) there was also something "finished" about being there at the end. We had a nice "Closing" Party, everyone got drunk and emotional, and we all went our different ways. I also started my New York adventure in the warm sunshine of late August and closed the door to my apartment in a sub-zero winter day in January. I think that also helped to book-end my experience in a very "complete" way.
I have so many people to thank and acknowledge for all their kindnesses and support, not least of all the many fans, some who traveled from so far to come see me in the show. Many of you brought wonderful gifts and mementos for me. The quilt, for instance can not go unmentioned. The outstanding cast and crew of "Urinetown" who welcomed me so warmly into their midst and who shared such extraordinary talent with me night after night. To each and every one of you, I wish you the very best in every aspect of your lives in this coming year. Health, wealth, happiness and a fist full of glowing notices!! A special "shout out" to the stage managers Peggy, Matt and Julia (and darling little Olivia!) And finally, to the City of New York itself. In sun or snow, 24 hours a day, you challenge, excite, amuse and comfort . . .what a burg!. . .what a place . . .what a "Wonderful Town."
closes it's doors for good, January 18, 2004. . .
The cast at the final curtain call with director John Rando
Charlie with the incomparable Carolee Carmello and Luther Creek
Urinetown, which had to be out of the Henry Miller's Theatre by mid-February, will close on January 18. It will not be moving to another venue, as had been discussed, but will simply end its Gotham run.
After acclaimed runs at the Fringe and off-Broadway, the musical, which features book and lyrics by Greg Kotis and music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann, opened on Broadway to mostly positive reviews on September 20, 2001. "If it's just as relentless as ever, John Rando's staging is more appealing in the larger space, where it's less in-your-face," Ken Mandelbaum wrote when the show moved to the Henry Miller. "With repeated hearings, one becomes less aware of the score's debt to Weill and Blitzstein and more conscious of the very genuine composing talent of Mark Hollmann; with mostly sharp lyrics by Hollmann and book writer Greg Kotis, the score now sounds almost dud-free, with Hollmann's music ranking as one of the more impressive debut scores of recent years." Urinetown received what it called in ads "The Tony Triple Crown:" awards for Best Book (Kotis), Best Director (Rando) and Best Original Musical Score (Hollmann & Kotis).
Urinetown was only supposed to run at Henry Miller's Theatre from August 2001 through March 2002. At which point, theater owner Douglas Durst planned to reconstruct the theater, adding almost 400 seats. However, Urinetown became a hit and Durst's plans were slowed because neighboring businesses were reluctant to give up their spaces, which were required for the large-scale reconstruction plan, which also involves building a skyscraper. Now those plans are moving ahead, forcing Urinetown to end its run at the venue.
Urinetown currently stars Charles Shaughnessy, Carolee Carmello, Luther Creek, Amy Spanger, Jeff McCarthy and Spencer Kayden.
I'm in Urinetown By: Peter Filichia from Peter Filichia's Diary at theatremania.com 5 november, 2003
Many times when I'm at an opening night or a critics' preview, I see the actors up there working so hard with their talent, hearts, and minds to impress those of us who write reviews. But what happens at a performance that takes place long after the critics have left? Do actors still work as feverishly? Or do they start coasting on automatic pilot?
At least once a year, I attend a "regular" performance with an audience of John Q. Theatergoers. This year, I decided onUrinetown. I didn't see the show when it premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 1999, but I did catch it in May 2001, when it was ensconced in an Off-Broadway sty, and then revisited it on Broadway on Sept. 10, 2001. That night, we gave it a titanic reception, and left the theater so happy, unaware that all our lives would dramatically change in less than 11 hours.
I hadn't returned since, but was delighted to have the opportunity. Would anyone have predicted that Urinetown would still be on Broadway two-plus years later? That it would have already surpassed the runs of such household name musicals as West Side Story, Gypsy, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Oliver!-- not to mention such Tony-winners as Fiorello!, Company, and (pretty soon) Applause? After all, we are dealing with the disgustingly titled story of Caldwell B. Cladwell, whose Urine Good Company sees to it that citizens are imprisoned (or worse) unless they use his pay-toilets, which are well supervised by Penelope Pennywise, both of whom rankle Bobby Strong, who just happens to fall in love with Cladwell's daughter Hope.
Nevertheless, Urinetown is still with us, which has prompted every person connected to every subsequent production at the New York International Fringe Festival to say, "Hey, Urinetown started here, and look what happened to them. We can do it, too!"
But I wasn't going to go easy on Urinetown. I attended a Wednesday evening performance, so I could see how much the cast would have left after having already done a matinee. The answer: Quite a bit. Though I must admit that the rag-tag chorus looked even more rag-tag, possibly because they're two years older. (Well, to quote Officer Lockstock, "Aren't we all, Little Sally, aren't we all?")
I was delighted, too, to see Daniel Marcus still with the company. The actor, who portrays Officer Barrel -- the man with the nightstick he loves to use -- had been injured during a performance last fall and had to leave until he healed. After it happened, Urinetown's Tony-winning director John Rando told me, "It's such a shame, because I don't know anyone who loves coming to the theater and performing like Dan." (If, by the way, you're surprised I noticed the actor in this small part, I must confess that I've known Marcus since Nov. 19, 1974, when we met during intermission of The Country Wife at Boston University, where Dan was then a student. The first words I ever heard him say, while his eyes feverishly scanned the lobby, were "Who's that whistling 'Look What Happened to Mabel'?!" I had to admit it was I.)
Carolee Carmello has come in for Nancy Opel, and I can now report that she is worth zillions of pennies as Ms. Pennywise. For one thing, she looks like a cross between the Bride of Frankenstein and Magenta at the end of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when she shows up with Riff-Raff to take Frank-N-Furter back home. Indeed, this Pennywise appears so crazed that you become sure that she doesn't get a discount from the Urine Good Company and must hold it past her breaking point. What Carmello can also hold, though, is a note, and what she brings to the syllable "POL" in "The politicians in their wisdom" -- accompanied by an arched back worthy of a Halloween cat -- must be witnessed by every serious musical theatergoer.
Newcomer Charles Shaughnessy, now playing Cladwell B. Caldwell, got entrance applause, which I didn't anticipate. (Frankly, I didn't know who he was, because I haven't followed a TV series since Alice in the mid-'70s.) Shaughnessy has a true clown's face, moves easily, sings well enough, and is as handsome and slick as John Cullum was in the role, yet I daresay what really makes a difference, as silly as it sounds, is his black hair. It really tops off the villain that Cladwell must be.
But the biggest surprises of the night for me were that Jeff McCarthy and Spencer Kayden were back in their respective roles of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally. For while I had heard that both of them had left, I had not heard that they had returned. Kayden -- the only performer to be with the show since its Fringe Festival days -- is giving pretty much the same wide-eyed but dazed (and dazzling) performance I remembered. She's still hilarious when she says the word "exposition" as if she's saying "psoriasis." But McCarthy turned out to deliver a much different performance.
Six lines into the title song I began to worry about him. There's a nice subtle joke in the lyric, "We, we never fail" -- a pun on "wee-wee," of course. Listen to McCarthy on the cast album, and you can hear him stress the comma between the "we's." Here, though, he gave a no-pause-at-all "wee-wee." Was he dumbing down the show, figuring today's audiences aren't as savvy as the ones that came before them, and that they wouldn't get the joke unless he hit it hard?
Soon after, something else about McCarthy struck me as different. During the title song and every one after it, he used his arms and hands to make wavelike moves that I don't believe he did before. (Think of the soft and easy gestures that flight attendants use before a trip to show you where the plane's exits are, and you'll get the picture.) Indeed, McCarthy sometimes seemed to be on a surfboard, riding a titanic wave into shore, in a body that appeared to now be made of rubber. Just as eccentric is his new haircut -- a buzzcut that made each strand of hair look as if it's a gray-dyed porcupine quill. It matched the razor sharp lie he baldly told Little Sally, which caused an audience member down front to laugh derisively -- prompting McCarthy to spin around, glare at the doubting audience member, who shut up awfully quickly out of what I truly believe was genuine fear.
For the first few scenes, the adjective I decided to use when I wrote about McCarthy's new interpretation would be "mellow." Then I concluded a better one would be "loosey-goosey." Finally, I landed on "mentally unbalanced." But really, doesn't that befit a character who's strictly governed by the Urine Good Company? How long would you hold onto your sanity if you lived under these conditions? Still, the question must be asked: Can an extended stint in Urinetown cause a performer to lose his mind?
Everyone in the cast sings the Kurt Weill minor-key mock-ups in a major way. Luther Creek, the new Bobby Strong, does superbly by the Jones-and-Schmidt-tinged "Look at the Sky" as well as in "Follow Your Heart," in which he's joined by a superb Amy Spanger as Hope. I'm only sorry that they won't get to do it past January. For as we've all heard, Urinetown must leave the Henry Miller's come January in order to accommodate the construction of a new building, and will close. All right, but don't miss it before it shutters. Ultimately, Urinetown continues to have piss and vinegar. It's a privilege to see.
Official Urinetown Photos
Charlie as Caldwell B. Cladwell in Urinetown, (l-r) Charlie with Lawrence E. Street, James Moye, Kristie Dale Sanders and Kirsten Wyatt photography by (c) Carol Rosegg
click on the photo to see a quicktime video greeting from Charlie
If you do not have quicktime, you can download it for free at Quicktime . Just pick the proper operating system, download and install as directed. It does work on the windows operating systems listed at the quicktime page, and of course, on macs.
click on small image to see larger image
"This is the Captain speaking. I'm afraid we are experiencing a little difficulty with the Jetway, so we will be holding here for a few more minutes. Please keep your seatbelts fastened. We will be deplaning shortly. Welcome to JFK New York."
Thus, with this common and innocuous enough irritation began one of the most extraordinary and surreal 48 hours of my life. It was Thursday, August 14th. And the great Blackout of 2003 had just struck. By the time I landed back in LA two days later, I had stargazed with thousands in a ghostly, pitch-black Times Square; I had talked with a female executive settling down for the night on a scrap of cardboard in the middle of 5th. Ave. and I had landed the lead in a Tony Award winning Broadway Musical!
Let me backtrack a bit. The wonderful Broadway veteran, John Cullum was leaving the hit show, "Urinetown" to open a new show with Mary Tyler Moore. My Agents suggested me to take over for him. The Producers of "Urinetown" checked up on my recent appearance as Henry Higgins in Pittsburgh, and, encouraged by what they heard, asked to meet me in New York. So that's why I was sitting in my seat, parked on a runway, wondering what was going on. The Captain's updates got ever more gloomy until it was revealed that the entire Eastern seaboard was blacked out and we weren't going anywhere. Eventually we deplaned down a stairway and set off for the terminal across the runways along with thousands of other ants streaming off planes as far as you could see. The terminal was pandemonium. All those travelers, who moments earlier had plans, destinations and schedules were suddenly bereft of all of it. No lights, no air conditioning, no planes, no phones, no place to go.
I had two strokes of luck. I had only carry-on bags with me, and my cell phone worked (unlike most others.) With heroic help from the dispatcher at my car company, I was able to rendezvous with my driver and crawl through the paralyzed streets to my hotel. With none of the electric keys or elevators working, the Lobby was a seething mass of bewildered tourists, exhausted business types and marooned, but ever patient, Air Crews. Goes with the job, I guess. Hungry and thirsty, I decided to forage for food and water. The hotel had run out of both ages ago and I was worried that this could soon become a serious problem. Out on the street, I thought I had stepped into some science fiction movie. Either the asteroid was about to hit or the aliens were heading for Manhattan. There was no panic, but an eerie and utterly unfamiliar scene.
Uncomfortable and cut off indoors, everyone was on the streets. I saw families with small children, clearly between flights, setting up camp with their suitcases and meager belongings, some were partying as if this was an excuse for one huge block party . . .and maybe it was! There was a girl in the middle of Times Square surrounded by hundreds of rapt listeners: her magnet . . .a battery powered Boom Box tuned to the News. I did eventually find both water and hot dogs, selling at the normal price by the way! And headed back to the hotel. There was one elevator working on emergency power ferrying people to their rooms in fours. It took nearly three hours to get from the lobby to my room on the 26th. Floor! It was an uncomfortable night with no A/C or running water or light, but I had a bed . . .I was better off than many who spent the night huddled in doorways and gutters.
The next morning dawned without much improvement, but I did eventually meet up with my Producers at a nearby apartment and I went through my paces. Bonded by this common catastrophe, we had a very comfortable and friendly morning. Auditioning for the creative Team of a Broadway show can be very unnerving, but these people offered me a shower, gave me breakfast and even dried my sweat-drenched shirt in their dryer! I tell you, it was like being in some alternate universe. There were still no planes flying, so they put me up for the night in a very nice hotel where the electricity had just come on, and after the best shower I have ever had and a huge lunch, I began to recognize the world again.
That night I went to see the show, which was absolutely brilliant. If I was excited before, I was now on pins and needles. Just before boarding my flight back home I heard that everyone had loved what they had seen of me and the job was mine. I was going to Broadway!!
What is "Urinetown?" That is a question many of the characters ask from the stage all through the production. It is also the title of one of the songs. " Urinetown" the show, not the place, is an inspired moral tale. It is a satire and parody, funny and tragic. Imagine Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weil getting loaded on everything in the medicine cabinet and sitting down to write a two-part episode of "The Shield". . .with songs . . .and farce . . .and a tribute to Les Miz . . .and . . . But it wasn't Brecht /Weil. "Urinetown" is the extraordinary creation of two young talents called Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann. Their genius was to take a subject (and title) that, at first blush would seem childish, scatological and crude, and make it into a piece of theatre that is breathtaking in it's wit, sophistication, cunning and sheer joy. The show won Tonys for book, music and direction last year, and like many of you, perhaps, I was a little skeptical of its merits. Perhaps one of those nights when Broadway wanted to show how daring it was. Well, all I can say is that by halfway through the first Act, it was clear as day to me that these were possibly the most deserved awards in the history of Broadway. An inspired concept, an unequalled cast and perfect direction made this a theatrical experience I will never forget.
Now I am to be given the opportunity to be an integral part of this experience: I am awed, excited and ready. I truly hope that a lot of you will be able to share this experience with me and get to see the show. I look forward to hearing from those of you that do see the show, to hear what you think. I promise you a memorable night of theatre.
So many of you have written me emails wondering how I am dealing with being away from my family for so long. I guess it is pretty obvious from the website that I am very close to my family, and I appreciate that so many of you have written to inquire about this. I have to tell you, it is really hard, but there is one gizmo that has saved my life (or at least my marriage, family and career) so, as a tribute to the folks at Apple, and to tell you how they have made such a tremendous difference to my being gone, I have written a little testimonial.
The good news was that I had just landed a lead role in a Broadway musical, the bad news was that I was going to be in New York for.... Five months!!
My wife and kids looked horrified and I had a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach. I had never been away this long, or anything like it. Not only that, but I am a very "hands-on" kinda Dad. My job has always afforded me a lot of time to be around the house and do carpool and coach soccer and oversee the homework. And now I was suddenly not going to be there for... Five months!!
I felt miserable about the whole thing. It was strange to have an opportunity like this come along, something that any actor would drool over and yet feel so miserable at the same time. I felt so lucky to have been able to be there to watch my kids grow every step of the way. We have always been a close-knit unit, perhaps too close, but I just couldn't imagine not seeing them for that amount of time. But then I hadn't considered the genius of Steve Jobs and his Cupertino Whiz Kids.
You see, I already had an iMac at home and a little iBook for travel. The new iChat program already gave me an audio Instant Messaging program by which I could talk to the family all at once without using the phone. But then came iChat AV. Now, by purchasing two iSight cameras for a total of $300 I could see my family as well by video conference! I now come home from the theatre each night, open iChat, choose my wife's name with the little green camera icon next to her name and her picture, in my Buddy window, wait for her to reply and ...voila...there they all are sitting in the office 3,000 miles away!! Maddy showed me her new braces, Jenny asked me about her History Timeline (I could actually read her book when she held it up to the camera) Susie showed off the dog's new haircut and I could give them a guided tour of my New York Apartment. Now I get to be with my family each night, by video conferencing with these 2 Apple computers, 2 little Apple iSight cameras, and five months doesn't seem too bad. Now, instead of just hearing their voices, I get to hear them AND see them! Every day!! It's really been remarkable and wonderful.
While I am singing the praises of Apple Mac, I should also mention another gadget that has proved to be invaluable. When I got to New York, I had ten days to learn the show before taking over from John Cullum. I needed to be able to access the music, my accompaniment, my warm-up exercises and blocking notes at any time so that I could be studying and practicing anytime anywhere. One word: iPod. I downloaded EVERYTHING onto this wafer thin "thing" that attached to my belt, plugged in the ear buds and could work anywhere. No batteries, no cassettes, no CD players, no CD¹s. Just touch and GO. And when I had done enough work, walking down 8th Avenue or on the subway, I could touch the front panel and instantly switch to another playlist and relax to Coldplay or John Lennon. Because I love music and I didn't bring a stereo with me, I also use it as a little "stereo" in my apartment with some external travel speakers. It even has a sleep timer, so I can fall asleep to music. It's so cool.
I know this probably seems like a paid endorsement by Apple, but I gotta' tell you, it is not. The Apple people don¹t know I'm writing this, but I am so grateful for this new technology and because I really believe Steve Jobs and his Mac Elves have made the Universe a better place, especially my universe, and because so many of you asked, that I just wanted to share it with all of you. We have all always used Apple computers, the website is made on a Macintosh, but they have now, in my opinion, gone far beyond just regular computing. I don't understand why more people don't use them as I think they are genius, beautiful to look at, and so completely easy to use. It's Holiday time coming up soon. I can't think of a better way of being good to yourself or someone else.
So. . .Enjoy!! Charlie
PS for those of you not familiar with all these gadgets, I asked aj to link to all of them so you could see.
click on small image to see larger image
Some more photos sent in from people that attended Urinetown during December and January
Pictures from Elizabeth and her sister Joanne from New York with Charlie and some of their UT memorabilia
Romie from Cleveland with her photos of some of the cast after the final performance. Amy Spanger, Carolee Carmello, Charlie, Jeff McCarthy, Luther Creek and Spencer Kayden
Michael and Jocelyn from New Jersey with Charlie and Jeff
Lisa and her husband Marty from Iowa in New York City, with Charlie and with some spectacular views of times square and a very humbling view of Ground Zero
Rachael and her friends Maria and Luke and Nikki from Pennsylvania
Rebecca and her son Joshua from New Jersey
Kelly from Georgia at the theatre, Shubert Alley and a beautiful photo of Central Park and also a photo of Ground Zero
Shirah from Florida
Dominique, Misty, Anne, Kate and Sandy from Germany, Pennsylvania, Massacusetts and New York
From Maryland, Ron, Sue, their daughter Sarah, and their triplets, Ari, Eli and Zev with Charlie, Luther Creek and Rick Crom
Stephanie, Ulrike, Susanne and Denise who came all the way from Germany to see Charlie!
Charlie and Stephanie, Charlie and Ulrike, The whole group from Germany, Ulrike and Stephanie in front of the theatre, a Urinetown banner,Christmas in New York snow, The Sheffield house, and Bye, Bye Charlie!
Liane came all the way from Germany to see Charlie in Urinetown. Here are some of her photos from her trip to New York.
Sue Wilkins and her husband Jerry Moses from Baltimore, MD attended a performance of Urinetown on 22 November, 2003. These are their photos from their trip to New York.
Romie and her friend Leigh from Cleveland with Charlie after the performance on a Saturday night at the stage door with Charlie signing autographs and taking pictures. Here are their photos from their trip to NY.
The family came to visit me in New York City for Thanksgiving, 2003. These are photos of the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade and the rest are self-explanatory.
Jenn S from Canada and Jenn M from Ohio went to the Kids Night On Broadway event at Macys and to see the show. Here are their photos from their trip to NY.
These are his photos from his day at the flea market © Shaughnessy Productions click on the smaller image to enlarge the image and/or see photos as a slideshow
Misty from Massachusetts sent in the photos she took after seeing Urinetown, The Musical
If you saw Charlie in "Urinetown" in NY, and want us to know about it, please send an email to the webmaster with URINETOWN as the subject title, letting us know which performance you attended and where you live. Also, if you took photos and want to send them in to the website, we would love to see them and we will be posting some of your photos on the website.
At the opening night party for Wicked at Tavern on the Green, the evil Mr. Cladwell with Carole Shelley who plays the Wizard's (Joel Grey) malevolent cohort Madame Morrible in Wicked
Fom the New York Times Arts and Leisure section:
12 october, 2003 An interview with the creators of Urinetown, Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, Flush with success 'Urinetown' creators didn't realize they had a hit on their hands by Michael Grossberg, Columbus dispatch
Charlie Robert Redford, Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci, Maxwell, Chilli, Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Roberts and Illeana Dogulas attended the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Kenneth Cole, Spring 2004 Collection, Bryant Park, New York City, Friday, 12 September, 2003.
From Daily Variety, 8 September, 2003
From Liz Smith's syndicated column Liz Smith 8 September, 2003
From NY Times Arts Briefing By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER 8 September, 2003
From broadway.com The Nanny 's Shaughnessy Heads to Urinetown
9 october, 2003 To listen to the interview that Charlie did, click on the following link. Charlie's interview on Red FM You will need to have realplayer installed on your computer. You can download a free copy at real player windows or mac.
Charlie was interviewed live from XM Satellite Radio's New York studios by Broadway Bill Schmalfeldt at noon (EST), thursday, 25 September, 2003. The website is XM On Broadway We will post more information after if it becomes available.
Charlie attended the IFP Gotham Awards 13th Annual Benefit Gala honouring Glenn Close and Steve Buscemi on Monday, 22 September, 2003 with his friend Wendy Saks. They were broadcast on Bravo network on Sunday, 28 September.
I love hearing from you. To contact me by email, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
The musical score is just magnificent. It's no wonder that it has won so many awards, including the Tony. You can buy the original CD cast recording of Urinetown, the musical and also the paperback book of Urinetown, the musical at these links:
What is Urinetown about, you may ask? Well, here is the synopsis of the show from the Original Cast Recording:
The musical opens with the entrance of Officer Lockstock, a tough-talking beat cop who doubles as the play's narrator. Apologizing for the fact that the show opens with Too Much Exposition, Lockstock explains how a terrible water shortage has crippled the Gotham-like city he serves, forcing the government to outlaw practices which might otherwise waste the precious resource. With the help of the street urchin Little Sally, Lockstock goes on to explain that to conserve water, the citizenry must now use the public, pay-per-use amenities owned and operated by Urine Good Company - a private corporation to which the government has assigned this public utility. Citizens who try to circumvent the peeing fee by going in the bushes or some other such place risk severe punishment. Offenders, Lockstock sings, are sent to Urinetown, a mysterious place where many have been sent but from whence no one ever returns.
Early morning at the poorest, filthiest urinal in town. Old Man Strong, a poor man, argues with the urinal manager, Penelope Pennywise (also known as Penny). He doesn't have enough money for the peeing fee this morning, and with a crowd of customers behind him clamouring for their turn, he asks Penny to give him a break. Penny refuses, explaining It's a Privilege to Pee. Old Man Strong appeals to his son, Bobby Strong, who serves as Penny's assistant. The law is the law, however, and Bobby finds himself powerless to contradict it. Unable to contain himself any longer, Old Man Strong relieves himself right there on the pavement. Officers Lockstock and Barrel enter and arrest Old Man Strong, hauling him off to Urinetown.
Meanwhile, at the corporate headquarters of the Urine Good Company, Caldwell B. Cladwell, the evil president of the urinal monopoly, discusses the timing of the next round of fee hikes with Senator Fipp, a corrupt politician who fears the effects Cladwell's price gouging will have on the populace. Their discussion is interrupted by the return of Hope Cladwell, Caldwell's sweet-hearted daughter, just home from The Most Expensive University in the World. Cladwell introduces Hope to his staff, welcoming her as the newest employee of the corporation. Taking a moment to bask in the wealth and power they've accumulated, the staff praises Mr. Cladwell even as Cladwell praises himself.
Later that day, having disposed of the troublesome Old Man Strong, Officers Lockstock and Barrel share in a Cop Song to discuss the horrors the trip down to Urinetown entails. Hope arrives on her way home from her first day at the office, and then Bobby joins them, having closed his shift after the late-night rush. After a few words of advice about suspicious appearances, the cops leave the kids to get to know each other. Tormented by his father's recent arrest, Bobby asks the beautiful newcomer for guidance. Hope tells Bobby to Follow Your Heart .
Arriving for work the next morning, Bobby is confronted with news of the latest round of Cladwell's fee hikes. Penny shouts down the protests of her customers (now unable to meet the required fee), commanding them to pony up or step aside. Bobby's mother, also short the required cash, stands before Bobby asking if she'll be turned away, too. Still tormented over having stood by while his father was taken to Urinetown, and emboldened by Hope's words of optimism, Bobby seizes the moment and opens the amenity for the people to pee for free. As Bobby rallies the poor, joyously telling them to Look At the Sky, Penny warns Bobby that he - and everyone - will surely pay for what he's done.
Back at Urine Good Company headquarters, Cladwell learns of Bobby's insurrection at the urinal. Don't Be the Bunny, he instructs Hope, as he waves aside her concern for the rabbit-like masses. Vowing dire consequences for Bobby and the rebels, he and the police head to the urinal to suppress the uprising.
Once at the urinal, Cladwell orders the cops to bust heads, but not before Bobby can initiate the obligatory Act One Finale . Hope realizes her words mistakenly inspired Bobby to start a revolution. Bobby realizes Hope is a Cladwell, and the poor realize they're no match for Cladwell's cops; so Bobby kidnaps Hope to allow the rabble to escape the punishment promised by Cladwell.
As the new act begins, Hope is tied to a chair at the underground secret hideout of the Rebel Poor, Cladwell is on the move demanding his daughter's recapture, Bobby is making his way through the city with his mother spreading word of the coming Revolution and Little Sally barely evades capture by Officer Lockstock as all ask What is Urinetown?
Hungry for payback and certain that it's only a matter of time before they're all captured and sent to Urinetown, Hot Blades Harry and Little Becky Two Shoes insist that the rebel poor Snuff That Girl . Bobby enters, horrified at how vengeful the poor have become. He tries to cheer them with more positive thoughts, singing of the steady road to social equality in Run, Freedom, Run! Penny arrives with a message: Cladwell is prepared to consider the rebels' demands, he wants to meet with Bobby. Bobby agrees.
At Urine Good Company headquarters, Bobby and Penny arrive to negotiate a settlement to the standoff. Bobby wants to trade Hope's safe release for a total revocation of Cladwell's cruel and oppressive peeing fees. Cladwell refuses, offering instead a large cash bribe to Bobby if he'll convince the rebels to return to the established order. Bobby refuses, so Cladwell orders Bobby's arrest, commanding Officers Lockstock and Barrel to take the troublemaker away to Urinetown. Penny, desperate to protect Hope, reminds Cladwell that this double-cross could mean certain death for his daughter. Cladwell, ever cold-hearted and power-obsessed, dismisses the danger and orders the expulsion anyway. In spite of her loyalty to UGC, Penny can hardly believe the depth of Cladwell's evil. She wonders, Why Did I Listen to That Man? Subsequently, Senator Fipp, Hope and Bobby ask the same question as they ponder their fate at Cladwell's hands. At the same time, Officers Lockstock and Barrel hustle Bobby off to his doom - a long fall off the roof of UGC headquarters. Bobby realizes too late that there is no Urinetown after all. Execution, not exile, has been the fate of those brave enough - or desperate enough - to break the town's strict peeing laws.
Back at rebel headquarters, Little Sally recounts Bobby's longing last words for Hope in Tell Her I Love Her. The poor are at first grieved by Bobby's death, then filled with lust for revenge. As they prepare to do away with Hope, Penny stops them, shocking everyone with the revelation that she is Hope's mother. Hope, deeply moved by this news and disgusted by her father's betrayal, convinces the rebels to let her help them overthrow the despicable Caldwell B. Cladwell.
Under Hope's protection, the rebels sing how We're Not Sorry, nor are their enemies, as they make their way through the shattered streets to the headquartes where Cladwell directs the continuing crackdown. Suddenly outnumbered in his lair, Cladwell and his henchmen are overthrown in a stunning coup. Cladwell is led away to his own trip off the roof of the UGC headquarters rooftop, but not before Penny and Cladwell confess their sorrow - or lack thereof - for the lives they left in a We're Not Sorry - Reprise.
With the blessing of the battle-weary population, Hope takes control of the monopoly, opening all the amenities to all the people, to pee for free whenever they like, for as long as they like. She sings of the better world she envisions in I See a River. Her utopia is short-lived, however. Officer Lockstock enters as he did at the beginning of the show to explain that Hope's idealism depleted all the water reserves. As evil as Caldwell B. Cladwell was, he had actually effectively rationed the water resources.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
MUSIC AND LYRICS: Mark Hollmann
WINNER OF THREE 2002 TONY AWARDS:
Best Original Score (Music & Lyrics): Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis
WINNER OF THREE 2002 OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS:
Outstanding Broadway Musical
WINNER OF TWO 2002 LUCILLE LORTEL AWARDS:
SPECIAL AWARDS AND HONORS:
The 56th Annual Clarence Derwent Award: Spencer Kayden
And NINE 2001 Drama Desk nominations including Best Musical
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