I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed “Urinetown” until seeing it again for the first time in a decade at Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, directed then as now by Ken Washington. “Urinetown’s” unappealing title is a friendly play on words emphasizing that “you’re in town” and that “you’re in good company,” despite the Urine Good Company monopoly that runs the place like a bladder tyrant.
Making ever-more-relevant points about sustainability and climate change, “Urinetown” is a delightfully entertaining commentary on what makes a good musical and how to keep the world habitable. Yet it’s so painless — except to those arrested for unauthorized peeing — you won’t notice there’s a moral lesson being preached.
After decades of drought, the municipality sold its soul to a devil who demands a fee every time a citizen needs to pee. It’s all explained by a narrator/ cop, Officer Lockstock, played with deadpan irony by Michael Bertolini, to Little Sally, a teddy-toting waif of adult dimensions (Courtney Braun). Together they banter through such inside-baseball theater riffs as “Too Much Exposition.” In a time and place where water conservation rules, it’s “A Privilege to Pee.” The fee keeps rising and the poor and huddled masses yearn to set their bladders free. Penelope Pennywise, played with authoritative zeal by Mary Ellin Kurtz, is the collector at Public Amenity No. 9. “If you’ve got to go,” she dares, “you’ve got to go through me.” Her assistant/toilet cleaner, Bobby Strong, leads a rebellion after his father is arrested for public urination, rallying his followers with “Run, Freedom Run,” sung by Jeremy Hudson with revolutionary gusto.
The revolt would be hopeless except that the rebels have something the monopoly wants — Hope, daughter of Urine Good Company CEO Caldwell Cladwell. The song-and-dance strongman, played by Michael Newman, warns his minions, including a bribe-bought senator (Mark Cahill), “Don’t Be the Bunny.” Though Hope (Samantha Carroll) has been kidnapped, she’s on Bobby’s side following their innocently lusty love-at-first-sight duet (“Follow Your Heart”).
Ronald Green III, doubling as Cladwell’s gofer, accessorizes with character-building costumes that accentuate Timothy Golebiewski’s appropriately grim multilevel set. Melissa Coyle’s orchestra brightly accompanies M.E. Junge’s choreography, embellishing sendups of Broadway musicals from “Fiddler on the Roof” to “West Side Story.”
BTW: There’s no fee for use of Smithtown restrooms. Also, if the “Hail, Malthus!” shout-out at the end stumps you, look it up.