20-Day Countdown! The Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime: #12: URINETOWN, 2002

Twelve days until the Tony Awards! We are at #12 on my 20-day Countdown of the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime.

Today's musical is witty and bizarre and damn-near perfection: Urinetown: The Musical.  The meta-ness and self-awareness of this musical is at-once cerebral, hilarious, refreshing, and mind-blowing; and the talent of the original cast was top-notch.  Not to mention, bursting at the seams with inventive, fabulous choreography.

First of all, Jeff McCarthy, the actor who opens up this segment of the Tony piece as Officer Lockstock, is one of my favorite Broadway actors of all time (Hello, SideShow!  Can I just ask why no one thought of HIM to play Javert in the movie version of Les Mis?  At least I wouldn't have to chew my fingernails off worrying that “Stars" will get slaughtered!).  And seriously, can Hunter Foster be any cuter or more energetic?

In the words of Wikipedia: “[The show] satirizes the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and municipal politics.  [It] also parodies musicals such as The Cradle Will Rock and Les Misérables, and the Broadway musical itself as a form.  In reverse-pantomime style, the unconventional plotline shatters audience expectations of a somewhat pleasant ending."  Boom, couldn't have said it better.  In other words, the show is utter cerebral perfection.

The idea started with one of the original writers traveling in Europe, encountering a pay-per-use toilet, and thus getting the inspiration to write a musical about a twenty-year drought that has caused a terrible water shortage, making private toilets unthinkable.  All toilet business must be done in public toilets where the user has to pay the controlling Urine Good Company for the use of the amenities.  If the people don't comply, they are sent to the penal colony called Urinetown.  If you go to Urinetown ... you don't come back.  Enter Assistant Urinal Custodian Bobby Strong, and we get ourselves a rebellion story worth singing about.

The show opened up in September 2001, ran for 25 previews and 965 performances, was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won three.  September 11, 2001, altered a lot of controversial shows on Broadway at the time, and Urinetown was no exception.  It was originally scheduled to open September 13, but it contained several references that would no longer be politically correct and would have to be mulled over before the show could open on September 20, with, after all that, only one line removed from the script.  That seems a fitting remark to the parody of the show.

So here is the original cast, including my darlings McCarthy and Foster, taking you on a raucous freedom-loving trip through Urinetown.  Not the town, of course: The Musical.

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