Theater Review: You’re in (pun) too deep in "Urinetown."

The company in the opening musical number, "Urinetown." Photo by Kevin Berne

I have made a pact with myself not to see shows that use titillating words in the title to lure theatergoers. I have stayed away from the something-monologues, meno-something and another doozy with the name of a male body part. However, duty called, and I attended the Tony-Award winning New York hit, “Urinetown.” I should have followed my heart (which is the title of one of the mushier songs) and stayed away.

The premise is that there is a severe water shortage and private bathrooms have been banned, except for the rich. Here is a mighty social message. The poor people must pay to use the public facility, while the rich grab the money and plan for a quick getaway to Rio. This kind of simplistic, anti-capitalist sentiment was flushed away back in the 1930s. Meanwhile, we are treated to public facility jokes and songs that fail to stir up any kind of empathy. We can imagine giant ants taking over our planet, but a home without indoor plumbing is unthinkable.

What a waste of a talented cast, which is to be commended for giving its best despite the material. There is a great deal of mugging and posturing, and this actually helps. Jeff McCarthy is an absolute delight as a policeman. Typical of the humor is the fact that he is named Officer Lockstock and his sidekick (Richard Ruiz) is Officer Barrel. McCarthy has some engaging interchanges with a waif called Little Sally, played charmingly by Meghan Strange.

Another of the great muggers is Ron Holgate as Caldwell B. Cladwell, the wealthy exploiter (hiss) of the poor. He must sing a cautionary song about a bunny that winds up as stew or a bedroom slipper. The handsome hero, who leads a Les Miz style revolution, is played by Charles Pollock and the ingĂ©nue daughter is Christiane Noll. No, we can’t fault the cast.

The book, music and lyrics are the responsibility of newcomers Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, and we hope they will use their fertile imaginations to clean up their act. John Rando, the director, does a great job of orchestrating the cast and Scott Pask has created a creditable sewer scene with public facility. As far as I was concerned, however, the evening was down the toilet.