Urinetown (2022)

Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis

June 2-25, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Bobby Strong – Kevin Corpuz
Hope Cladwell – Melissa Felps, Grace Langford
Officer Lockstock – Kent Coffel
Little Sally – Jennelle Gilreath
Caldwell B. Cladwell – Todd Schaefer
Penelope Pennywise – Sarah Gene Dowling
Officer Barrel – Marshall Jennings
Mr. McQueen – Clayton Humburg, Chris Moore
Senator Fipp – Colin Dowd
Josephine Strong – Mara Bollini
Joseph Strong / Hot Blades Harry – Zachary Allen Farmer
Little Becky Two Shoes – Grace Langford, Jessica Winingham
Tiny Tom – Ian McCreary
Billy Boy Bill – Chris Moore
Robbie the Stockfish – Christopher Strawhun
Soupy Sue – Jessica Winingham

Conductor/Keyboard – Tim Clark
Reeds – Kelly Austermann
Trombone – Tom Hanson
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – John Gerdes

Directors – Scott Miller, Chris Kernan
Music Director – Tim Clark
Choreographer – Chris Kernan
Scenic Designer – Todd Schaefer
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“Was there ever a show like Urinetown, showing off this month with a jazzy new gloss at New Line Theatre? It’s a fantasy of a nightmare of a concept of a dream. And it barrels right at you, at a hundred miles an hour. New Line founder Scott Miller co-directs, along with choreographer Chris Kernan, and the crazy audacity of it just flies out of them both, with an outstanding cast and a very fine band. . . This is one of New Line’s strongest shows, where the company’s whole three decades of gritty, can’t-turn-away entertainments come to hard-driving, satirical fruition.” – Richard Green, Talkin Broadway

“New Line Theatre concludes its 30th-anniversary season with a boisterous, energetic presentation of Urinetown, still a witty and scathing satire on much that’s wrong with society more than twenty years after its Off-Broadway debut. . . With the declining state of politics today, Urinetown is as prescient as ever. This is not heavy-handed satire, though. Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann and their characters, Officer Lockstock and Little Sally, wink and nod at the audience directly throughout its two witty acts and two hours of smoothly paced running time in this version directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

Urinetown is smart, sassy, and relentlessly metatheatrical – that is, it calls attention to the fact that it is theater piece. These qualities put the musical in the wheelhouse of New Line Theatre, whose current staging of Urinetown is a thorough delight. . . Under codirectors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, the splendid New Line cast displays a sure grip on the style required to bring out the cheeky spirit of the book by Greg Kotis and the lyrics by Kotis and Mark Hollmann, who wrote the music.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

Urinetown is the meta, satirical musical we need right now. . . Right from the start, it’s clear that we are in for something special. Conventional musical rules are thrown out the window, and the show’s self-awareness leads to a fun and unique experience throughout the show. . . Urinetown is packed full of funny moments and memorable musical numbers, while at the same time begging the audience to think about how close some of the absurdity resembles the current state of the world. A biting satire and social commentary that never ceases to entertain, the show is non-stop fun that also seems more important than ever.” – Kevin Brackett, Review STL

“In the capable hands of directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, the talented cast of Urinetown gives audiences an exceptional and witty production that resonates with uncomfortable truth. . . Urinetown is a delightful and bouncy bummer of a comic musical. Poppy songs, potty humor, and funny double takes help deliver serious concerns about global warming as well as corporate greed and political corruption. Strong performances, pointed direction and an abundance of comedy ensure New Line Theatre succeeds in giving audiences an entertaining show with a thought-provoking edge.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“If Urinetown isn’t the best show that Scott Miller’s New Line Theatre has ever produced, the distinction is too fine to matter. This show – brainy, incisive, and so funny that it makes you choose between laughing and breathing – stands at the very pinnacle of New Line’s achievements. . . About the laughing and breathing thing – that’s no exaggeration. Should you hold your breath to make sure you hear the next hilarious line? Or should you just give in and laugh your head off? Both approaches have their advantages. Personally, I think it’s simplest to go to see it twice. . . This is wonderful grist for our Miller. With its neon political message and its unabashed love for the art of musical theater, Urinetown has in Miller a director whose own sensibility is perfectly in tune with the show’s material. It’s a love match.” – Judy Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

“Zeitgeist, meet Urinetown. In this Twilight Zone reality we seem to live in now in the 21st century, the subversive Urinetown the musical has never seemed timelier. Or funnier. Or scarier. What once was merely laugh-out-loud outrageous 20 years ago has morphed into a gasp-filled hit-nail-on-head satire where sleazebag politicians are even slimier, greedy corporate bastards are more cruel, ecological disaster seems more imminent and cries of revolution are not far-fetched but absolutely necessary. . . This cast has the vocal chops to entertain in lively fashion, and with nimble comic timing, hits the sweet spot between exaggerated naivete and cheeky irreverence. . . Co-directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan’s fresh take goes darker, which suits the capricious winds of an ever-evolving global pandemic that we have lived through for 27 months. Not to mention clinging to a democracy with fascist and authoritarian threats very much present. And hello, global warming.” – Lynn Venhaus, Pop Life STL

“It’s a dark comedy and a sharp satire, and at New Line, it’s a memorable experience with an especially strong cast, insightful direction, and a striking aesthetic. . . It’s a strong ensemble all around, with loads of cynical energy and strong vocals. There’s also excellent stylized choreography by Chris Kernan. This is a demanding show in terms of style, pacing, and overall theming, and all that is done remarkably well at New Line, under the direction of Scott Miller and Kernan. . . At New Line, Urinetown challenges, provokes, and ultimately entertains with a superb cast of local actors and singers. It may not be a happy musical, but it’s certainly a memorable one.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

When Urinetown opened on Broadway in 2001, it broke the musical comedy. In a good way. In a perverse way, it was the most honest musical to be written in decades.

The evil musical theatre geniuses Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann (also creators of the amazing Yeast Nation) took the long-perfected machinery of the American musical comedy, passed down to us from George M. Cohan through George Abbott, and they threw several big wrenches into that machine, pulled out some of its gears, smeared peanut butter on a few of the belts.

Even the weirder experiments of the past never broke it. They may have used that machinery for subversive and/or outrageous purposes (Little Shop, anyone?), and in the case of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, he ran the machine backwards. But everybody always kept the machine running.

Kotis and Hollmann broke it. In a good way. And in the process, they helped birth the neo musical comedy, shows that uses the tools and conventions of old-school musical comedy for darker, more political, more cynical purposes.

The opening number of Urinetown violates every rule of musical theatre openings – except for one, maybe the most important, Sondheim's Ten Minute Rule, which requires laying out all the ground rules for the evening in the first ten minutes of the show, ideally in the first song. (Think of Into the Woods, Company, Hamilton, High Fidelity, Next to Normal, Bat Boy, Be More Chill, Heathers, and so many other great shows.) Urinetown does in fact set up all the rules for the evening in the first song, but these are really different rules.

While most stories weave the central theme subtly throughout the story, Urinetown bludgeons us repeatedly all night with water and pee imagery. This world is familiar to us, but also different from ours, like a funhouse mirror of our real world, distorted, but still a mirror. We can count on certain things making sense, but not all things, and we can sort of see our own reflection. The storytelling seems unnervingly serious and perversely literal. The heightened style of acting mashes together the high formality of Classical Theatre with a gleefully silly plot and ridiculous characters and dialogue.

In some ways, Urinetown asks actors to actively go against their best instincts. But I've seen this weird alchemy work. I saw it on Broadway, and I directed the show for New Line fifteen years ago, with a fearless cast. It's been a blast to return to this upside-down world again.