Click hyperlinks to songs from the musical that demonstrate what I am discussing in the article.
I love student theater. Theater in general but student theater holds a special place in my heart. This past weekend I went to see a show put on by the Livingston Theatre Company, one of Rutgers’ student run theater companies. It’s called Urinetown. Yes, what you are reading is correct. Urine is in the title. And it is odd but the preface of the musical is people’s right to “pee for free.” Here’s the gist of the plot (from a short synopsis provided by stageagent.com):
“In the not-so-distant future, a terrible water shortage and 20-year drought has led to a government ban on private toilets and a proliferation of paid public toilets, owned and operated by a single megalomaniac company: the Urine Good Company. If the poor don’t obey the strict laws prohibiting free urination, they’ll be sent to the dreaded and mysterious “Urinetown.” After too long under the heel of the malevolent Caldwell B. Cladwell, the poor stage a revolt, led by a brave young hero, fighting tooth and nail for the freedom to pee “wherever you like, whenever you like, for as long as you like, and with whomever you like.”
The show is hilarious, the music is catchy, my peers are incredibly talented, and the actual meaning is extremely relevant. The show satirizes the legal system, capitalism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and municipal politics. (I love satires) There is a company that treats the people unfairly under the guise of helping them and the town. They take the townspeople’s money saying they are researching ways to fix the water shortage but really taking the money to make themselves rich. They enforce the policy of paying to pee by taking lawbreakers to Urinetown. They pay off politicians and the police force to do their dirty work. The town decides to revolt against the company when the raise the prices to use the bathroom, again. The leader, after refusing the pay off to stop the revolt is taken to Urinetown, which really means they killed him. If none of this sounds familiar then I’m afraid your teachers have not taught you well or you many not be up to date on the things that affect your life and the lives of those around.Sure, it can be said that we aren’t paying to pee, but some corporations do treat people less than they deserve all to save them more money. However, it can be said that politicians are paid off and that sometimes the police aren’t always on our side. This is not the case of everyone and everything but it does happen and we should know. Suffice to say, the musical makes funny situations so we can be aware of them. It is fun to learn about these things in a comedic way, makes people want to know.
Hope: “Gosh, Daddy, I never realized large, monopolizing corporations could be such a force for good in the world!”
Mr. Cladwell: “Few do.”
That was a quote from the show. Another reason I loved the show is because it also parodied the musical genre as a whole.
Little Sally: “(Say Officer Lockstock, is this where you tell the audience about the water shortage?)”
Officer Lockstock: “What’s that Little Sally?”
LS: “You know, the water shortage. The hard times. The drought. A shortage so awful that private toilets eventually became unthinkable. A premise so absurd that. . .”
OL: “Whoa, there Little Sally. Not all at once. They’ll hear more about the water shortage in the next scene.”
LS: “Oh, I guess you don’t want to overload them with too much exposition, huh.”
OL: “Everything in its time, Little Sally. You’re too young to understand it now, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition.”
LS: “How about bad subject matter?”
LS: “Or a bad title, even? That could kill a show pretty good.”
OL: “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 was a snit bit from the opening of the show. Those two characters are constantly stepping outside their roles to talk about the show, what may or may not be happening next, and about how musicals are set up in general. It is a great contribution to the show. So go see it. I’m sure it is playing somewhere around you wherever you are.
“People are free! How can a fee enslave us? See. How we can be free from the chains he gave us!”