Reviews: Urinetown

Free the pee for the 99%!

Whether or not Urinetown will go down in history as a famous musical, it's definitely a product of its time.

I assumed from the title alone that it would have a lot of crude humor, but fortunately, that's not the case. Instead, the humor comes from other sources, like Hope Cladwell's child-like innocence, lampshading of theater tropes, things like that.

What stuck out to me was the theme. The play seems to be about a bunch of things - corruption, people in charge not caring about the poor, people being afraid to fight back, and even people fighting back without even having a plan. The "99%" signs were a nice reference, and we get Bobby Strong talking about freedom for all, not just "the wealthy few". And Mr. Cladwell's talk of bribing the police and controlling everything in town. It seems like much of the play is about corruption in government and unfairness against the average person.

But it also satirizes the other side as well.

One of the characters says, "They've got one, two men, and we're all so poor!", which felt like an insult against the types of people who talk about taking action, but refuse to do so when the opportunity presents itself.

Other stupid moves by the townspeople are mocked. Like their plan to kill Hope Cladwell. Why? To punish her because of what her horrible father did. What would that accomplish? According to the poor people, it would make them briefly feel powerful. Which is just the point, right? It's one of the reasons why people do stupid, short-sighted things in real life.

What really caught me by surprise, though, was the Downer Ending. Not the fact that there is one, but the ending itself! Due to deregulation, the water becomes contaminated, and people die. Which could easily be seen as a riff on people who are so angry at a corrupt government that they think, "Throw the scum out!" and then don't follow through on creating something better. Even as corrupt as he was, as much of a monster as he was, Mr. Cladwell still ran a functional government. Deposing him without a plan on how to run the place is the sort of thing that's sadly common in revolutions.

Are all these themes intentional? Either way, they're applicable, and that's what I read into this play.