So I mentioned seeing Urinetown earlier this week, and as it’s still fresh in my mind, thought I would add something about it. Yes that name is right, yes it certainly grabs the attention doesn’t it, and yes, the name is fairly relevant to the show.
Was lucky enough to grab some cheap tickets to see this. Like most West End shows, face value tickets are expensive, but there are always offers to be found if you hunt around. I did get the impression on the evening that the discounted tickets had worked well, it was probably one of the younger audiences I’ve seen for some time at the theatre, which is never a bad thing. I was sitting behind a whole row of people who were probably not even 20 and I don’t think they would have been paying the normal sixty pounds those seats are. And they clearly were enjoying it, and adding to the great vibe in the audience on the night.
My initial comment on the show was that it was deliberately clichéd, corny and camp and very very funny. And I think that about sums up everything I’m going to say below, but do hope you will read on.
I’m sure somewhere out there must be a book entitled “How To Write A Musical”, setting out all the basic rules of any musical. I can imagine this book having chapters explaining the strict rules on what characters are needed, how the songs should be structured, just how much subtle campness is needed and of course explaining that every musical must have a happy ending.
And yes, the writers of Urinetown clearly read the book and mostly followed the rules precisely; so precisely that everything is completely over the top, and intentional so. It’s done so well it looks perfectly natural and so easy that you would think any fool could have written it.
The narrator, like the rule book must say, is both a character and an ethereal presence that at times steps out of the action to update the audience on what is happening, but does it in a very over the top way, almost explaining that things are happening simply because that is what happens in a musical.
Early on he berates a young girl for over-complicating things for the audience when she asks why the show is only concerned with water usage in toilets, the very central idea of the whole show, and not other things that would take more water. (I am hoping there will be a follow up show one day called Laundrytown.) While watching this I was strangely in mind of Stewart Lee (sorry for possibly a very obscure reference), a brilliant comedian who does very much the same in his stand up, following the rules of comedy so rigidly that at times he stops to explain why what he just said is in fact the best joke ever.
The campness comes in the most unexpected places; declarations of love between characters that just have no relevance to the scene; two thugs having a lustful embrace at the end of a fight scene for no real reason except that a musical needs to be slightly camp.
The music is as fun as would be expected, and of course as clichéd as required. There is the big opening number to set the scene, the romantic number when the love interests meet, the villains’ song to emphasise how evil he is, (don’t go if you are offended by suggestions of nasty things you can do to bunnys), the sad song when the love interests are unable to be together, and of course the required big number at the end of part one that sets the picture for what is coming in part two. And it’s all toe tapping fun.
Suddenly though as the second half progresses it slightly deviates from the rule book, again with absolute knowingness; the narrator explaining to the young girl that this isn’t a normal musical, after all it isn’t going to be happy with a name like Urinetown! But even with this turn, it just gets funnier.
As someone who rarely does musicals, this was certainly up my street. Everything was so tongue-in-cheek you just can’t help but laugh at it all. The clichéd nature was so intentional it just added to the humour. So provided you can handle the slight toilet humour of it all, it’s well worth an evening out.
As a slight aside, before the show and during the interval, was confused to see a number of young girls, (at my age, young is late teens/ early 20s) walking about shoeless. Now I know I said it’s great to see a younger audience, but I did think taking your shoes off at the theatre was just a little bit unnecessary and way too casual. So I was so relieved to find out afterwards that this was a charity thing, and that some brave soul was going the whole month of November shoeless for War On Want. If you want to help out, her Just Giving page is here;
Please do give a few pounds if you can, remember how rainy it’s been this month, surely that deserves some support.