Theater, Musicals
3 out of 5 stars
Urinetown at BoHo Theatre
Photograph: courtesy BoHo Theatre Urinetown at BoHo Theatre

It's a privilege to pee in this dystopian musical comedy, revived by BoHo with a sharp young cast.

Born from the imaginations of Chicago expats Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, this dark comedy made the rare leap from FringeNYC to Broadway in 2001, anticipating a decade’s worth of self-referential musicals that would comment knowingly and ironically on the musical form itself. Yet for a portrait of a dystopian society in which severe water shortages have made peeing a paid privilege (and going in the woods a crime punishable by forced exile), Urinetown is, by the standards of what followed it, refreshingly uncynical.

Kotis’s book sets up the conflict between idealistic young Bobby Strong (played here by the guilelessly appealing Henry McGinniss) and sheltered, moneyed Hope Cladwell (Courtney Mack), daughter of iron-fisted toilet magnate Caldwell B. Cladwell (Donterrio Johnson). Hope is soon ready to join Bobby’s revolution for justice and love—but don’t think they can flush away their troubles so easily. There’s no clear stream—er, path—to a happy ending here.

Stephen Schellhardt’s cramped but crafty staging for BoHo Theatre gets a long way on the goofy charms of McGinniss and Mack, with able assists by the likes of Scott Danielson’s narrating Officer Lockstock and Ariana Burks’s precocious Little Sally. Taking steady aim at Urinetown’s pee-brained sense of humor, Schellhardt and company keep the action and the jokes flowing freely.

BoHo Theatre at Stage 773. Music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann. Book and lyrics by Greg Kotis. Directed by Stephen Schellhardt. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 10mins; one intermission.

By: Kris Vire


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