Urinetown is an award-winning satirical comedy musical that pokes fun at capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, and petty small town politics, as well as advocating environmentalism. Urinetown rejects musical theatre convention, parodying successful Broadway shows such as Les MisÚrables, Evita, Annie, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and even satirizes its own significance. In reverse pantomime style, the unconventional plotline shatters audience expectations of a pleasant ending.
The show was directed by Tony Award winner John Rando, and features music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis. It debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival, was produced Off-Broadway at the American Theatre for Actors and then moved to Broadway, opening at Henry Miller's Theatre on September 20, 2001 (its planned opening having been postponed after the September 11, 2001 attacks). It ran on Broadway through January 18, 2004, closing with a total of 25 previews and 965 performances.
A national tour starring Christiane Noll began in San Francisco, California on June 13, 2003. An open-ended run began performances at Chicago's Mercury Theater in March 2006.
The original cast included Hunter Foster (as Bobby Strong, later replaced by Tom Cavanagh), Jeff McCarthy (as Officer Lockstock), Nancy Opel (as Penelope Pennywise), Tony Award-winner John Cullum (as Caldwell B. Cladwell), Jennifer Laura Thompson (as Hope Cladwell), Spencer Kayden (as Little Sally) and Ken Jennings (as Old Man Strong/Hot Blades Harry).
The show opens with a friendly welcome from Officer Lockstock, the narrator ("Too Much Exposition"). According to Lockstock, a twenty-year drought has caused a terrible water shortage, making private toilets unthinkable. All restroom activities are done in public toilets controlled by a megacorporation called "Urine Good Company" (or UGC). To control water consumption, people have to pay to use the amenities. There are harsh laws ensuring that people pay to pee, and if they are broken, the guilty peer is sent to a supposed penal colony called "Urinetown", where offenders are sent but never return.
The oppressed masses huddle in line at the poorest, filthiest urinal in town ("Urinetown"), which is run by the rigid, harshly authoritarian Penelope Pennywise and her assistant, dashing young everyman Bobby Strong. Trouble ensues when Bobby's father, Old Man Strong, can't afford his urinal admission for the day and asks Pennywise to let him go for free "just this once". After Old Man Strong's plea is dissmissed ("It's a Privilege to Pee"), he pees on the street out of frustration and is soon arrested and escorted off to Urinetown.
Later that day, in the corporate offices of Urine Good Company, the CEO, Caldwell B. Cladwell, is discussing the new fee hikes with Senator Fipp when Cladwell's beautiful daughter, Hope Cladwell, arrives on the scene as the UGC's new fax/copy girl. ("Mr. Cladwell")
Officers Lockstock and Barrel talk about the journey to Urinetown ("The Cop Song"), while screams from the exiles can be heard. Hope enters and meets Bobby Strong, and the two sing about their hope for a new world ("Follow Your Heart"). Later, Officer Lockstock and Little Sally discuss Urinetown.
The next day, new fee hikes are announced and a group of rebels (led by Bobby) begin a rebellion that lasts through the second act. Bobby sings that they could win if everyone looked to the sky ("Look at the Sky"). At the offices of UGC, Cladwell is informed of the revolution, and Hope defends Bobby's actions. Cladwell responds by telling her not to "be the bunny" ("Don't Be the Bunny"). At Public Amenity #9, Cladwell, UGC staff, and police arrive to confront Bobby. Bobby discovers who Hope's father is, and the rebels kidnap Hope and head to a secret hideout in the sewers ("Act One Finale").
The second act begins and we see the rebel poor hiding with Hope in the sewers, the police and Cladwell looking for them, and Bobby hiding from the police. The rebels think of what Urinetown is, and they all give their opinion of where it's located ("What is Urinetown?").
Down in the sewers, the rebels are driven mad and get close to killing Hope ("Snuff That Girl") when Bobby bursts in and reminds the rebels of their purpose in the revolution ("Run, Freedom, Run!").
Pennywise bursts into the secret hideout telling Bobby that Cladwell wants him to come to the UGC headquarters. Bobby goes, but only after being reminded by the impatient rebels that if anything happens to him, Hope will be killed. Bobby tells Hope to think of what they have ("Follow Your Heart (reprise)"). Pennywise fiercely swears that if any of the rebels harm Hope, she will have Bobby sent off to Urinetown.
At the UGC headquarters, Cladwell offers Bobby a suitcase full of cash and full amnesty to the rebels as long as Hope is returned and the people agree to the new fee hikes. Bobby refuses, and demands free access to the people. Cladwell orders the cops to escort Bobby to Urinetown. On top of The UGC building, Bobby learns the truth that there is no Urinetown, they just kill people ("Why Did I Listen to That Man?") Then Lockstock and Barrel throw him off the building, killing him. Little Sally returns to the hideout in a shocked daze, having just heard Bobby's semi-coherent last words, which she recounts ("Tell Her I Love Her"). Pennywise enters and proclaims that Hope is her daughter.
Pennywise unties Hope, explaining that she was the one-time lover of Cladwell back during the Stink Years. Once released, Hope promptly convinces the rebels, Pennywise now among them, to let her lead the revolution. The rebels march to the office of UGC, killing Officer Barrel, Senator Fipp, and Mrs. Millenium on the way ("We're Not Sorry").
Upon entering his office, Cladwell is captured by the rebels. Hope orders her father off to Urinetown and he is thrown off the roof by the Poor ("I See A River").
Now that Cladwell is gone forever, Hope assures her followers that the age of fear is over and looking ahead to the bright new day. The Urine Good Company is renamed "The Bobby Strong Memorial Toilet Authority" and the people are henceforth allowed to pee whenever they like, as much as they like, for as long as they like, and with whomever they like.
However, in a sort of epilogue, Officer Lockstock informs us that the town's newfound urinary bliss is short-lived, as the town's limited water supply quickly disappears. As draconian as Cladwell's rules were, they did keep the people from squandering the limited water supply; now much of the population dies of thirst. Lockstock insinuates that Hope suffers a terrible death at the hand of the people for her actions in depleting the water supply, but adds that the remaining townsfolk will wage on, their town now quite like the imaginary 'Urinetown' they had been threatened with all their lives. As the cast chants "Hail, Malthus!" the audience must face this final question: can they continue to blithely live a life that they consciously know is unsustainable?