Though there is one intermission slated for the Bainbridge Performing Arts’ May production of the Broadway smash “Urinetown, The Musical,” it’s been rumored that the bulk of the audience will not be allowed a trip to the toilets.
That threat of course holds little water in life as we know it, but in the world of this satirical and cautionary musical — written by Greg Kotis, directed by Teresa Thuman — people are forced to hold it, literally.
That’s right, no more private bathrooms. Drought has taken hold of the land and a sinister corporation has taken advantage of public toilet facilities and restroom restrictions.
“The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, so of course there’s a revolution,” said Karen Harp-Reed, BPA’s vocal director for “Urinetown.”
Though the play goes right to the edge of over the top, poking fun at everything from local government and show tunes to corporate mismanagement and back around to itself, it’s a strikingly grounded tale. Greed, corruption and hope ensue as the “Urinetown” public seeks relief, leaving its audiences with a comically symbolic “what if …”
“When you take something to such an absurd extreme, once you look at it, you can kind of see the absurdity of your own reality,” said Seattle’s Luke Walker, who is playing the optimistic, rebel-rousing urinal custodian’s assistant Bobby Strong.
Audiences across America have taken that kind of look as “Urinetown” debuted on the New York Fringe Festival in 2000 and enjoyed a healthy stint on Broadway (2001 through 2004) before inciting a national tour. Kotis’ masterpiece has raked in prestige, including three Tony and two Obie Awards.
Now, it is debuting with a “Pay-What-You-Can” preview night at 7 p.m. March 10 at BPA. It will run weekends throughout May 27 with 7:30 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays at the Playhouse — 200 Madison Ave. on Bainbridge.
It’s the type of show that will split one’s gut and follow up with a helping of food for thought. Delving into that style of production, Thuman said the BPA cast and crew has consequently been discussing German dramatist Bertolt Brecht’s theory of theater as education.
“Because you are entertained along the way, you go away with a deeper sense of what the real meaning of it was,” she said. “What I really feel is so important is that it calls attention to false optimism — which we’ve had a pretty heavy dose of recently — and how really dangerous it is.”
The show’s true meaning will likely be an internal revelation, while its entertainment is blatant humor from the premise to the music. Thuman calls “Urinetown” a musical for people who don’t like musicals.
The show’s satire reaches into its score with spoofs on all sorts of show tunes from “Les Miserables” to “Annie,” “West Side Story” to “Chicago.”
In the second act, a group of citizens has the evil corporation boss Caldwell B. Cladwell’s daughter, Hope, bound and gagged in an underground sewer. While formulating a plan for liberation, Bobby Strong starts speaking of freedom.
Following a naively lush and optimistic pep talk, Strong surmises “The sound of freedom sounds something like …”
Something like a spoof song on “Muddy Water” from “Big River.”
Belting out three-part harmonies and carrying strong solo melodies, there is no joke involved with the cast’s vocal abilities or its musical director Jack Weber, Harp-Reed said.
The cast is comprised largely of BPA regulars as well as a few new faces as Stegar Thompson plays the peacekeeping Officer Lockstock, Maribeth Hinderer plays tough urinal custodian Penelope Pennywise, Michelle Lorenz Odell plays the corporate daughter Hope Cladwell while her tyrannically portrayed father Caldwell B. Cladwell is played by Tim Tully.
“This is my first show on Bainbridge and I have to say I absolutely love it,” said Walker (Bobby Strong). “It’s such a brilliant show in itself, the music is so fun and all of the little tongue and cheek jokes are so brilliant but also we have a brilliant cast.”
Thuman, another Seattlite directing her third play for BPA agreed.
“There’s an intelligence and a sensitivity and there’s just a real love for performance (here),” she said.