Urine luck

David Alford, Beth Balzar, and Kim Stephenson in Urinetown. Photo by Alberto Delcampo.
The Musical
7:30pm Thu; 8pm Sat; 2:30pm Sun, May 20
Through Jun 2
$17 general; $15 senior, military; $10 student
Sheldon Vexler Theatre
12500 NW Military

I have to begin by admitting that I am a longtime fan of Urinetown. It’s one of the few musicals that I enjoy with pride rather than as a guilty pleasure or with some sort of Stockholm-syndrome familiarity. (Being able to hum all the tunes from The Pajama Game is like singing along with a Bachman Turner Overdrive song — it’s not necessarily an endorsement, just a reminder of hours of captive exposure.) Urinetown, on the other hand, is a musical of substance, a parable of government and a harbinger of ecological apocalypse. It’s also a rollicking fun play with good music and, like Hot Fuzz, made me want to see it again — and, as they say in Sandford, I’m not just taking the piss.

Let’s start with the set. I don’t normally gush over scenery, but if I could take home Ken Frazier’s set from the Sheldon Vexler Theatre and send it back in time to my childhood, it would make the most awesome backyard fort ever. Combined with the choreography and directing, it makes for some great chase scenes and an outstanding use of three-dimensional space. If you’re looking for spectacle, then Urinetown is the place you want to be.  

Then of course, there’s the play itself. There’s trouble in the city and it starts with a capital ‘P’ and it rhymes with “wee” and stands for — well, you get the idea. I won’t load you down with too much exposition, but imagine a future where there is no private plumbing and you have to pay to pee. The Urine Good Company is the corporate monopoly that squeezes the poor folk of the city for their last pennies, and the law backs it up by exiling anyone caught doing their business al fresco to a scary place called Urinetown.

The UGC is run by Mr. Cladwell (played here with rascally relish by Byrd Bonner) who instructs his naïve daughter Hope (delightfully portrayed by Beth Balzar) that it’s better to be a predator than the prey. When Hope falls for the equally idealistic Bobby Strong (the adept Adam Schindler), a host of musical theatre clichés come out of the woodwork. What makes Urinetown so hilarious, though, is that its creators, Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, make fun of the same clichés they’re using — rendering the saccharine singing more than palatable.  

The excellent ensemble of actors includes such stand-outs as David Alford (Hot Blades Harry), Christina Aranda as the inquisitive Little Sally, and Twyla La Mont as the tough-talking, song-belting Ms. Pennywise. Kevin Murray’s expert comic acting is put to good use as Officer Barrel, and Roy Bumgarner is an excellent lynchpin as the narrating Officer Lockstock. Bumgarner’s superb timing and delivery are an indicator of how polished this production is.  

Urinetown is as good a civics lesson as the old Schoolhouse Rock! and a more apt instruction than you might get with a graduate degree in Political Science. Suffice it to say that it leaves you less self-satisfied and makes you think about the complexities involved in sustaining infrastructure and any form of life. It’s easy to say “corruption is bad,” it’s harder to show that things aren’t that simple. It’s Urinetown, Jake. A truly entertaining musical with themes that go beyond “Love is Nifty” and “Evil People are Bad, Singing is Good”? Yes, and that’s why Urinetown is #1 in my book. 

Scroll to read more Arts Stories & Interviews articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.