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‘Urinetown’ sends up Broadway musicals and skewers politicians, too

"Urinetown: The Musical,” which opens at the Prescott Center for the Arts July 14, is one of the new generation of plays to make it to Broadway, although, only in the musical theater world, would a show that premièred 17 years ago be considered new.

The show is a political satire, but it’s also what we now know as a “meta” play, which is to say, “Urinetown,” while being a stage musical, realizes it’s a stage musical and derives laughs from that.

This is how we get an opening number titled “Too Much Exposition,” for example.

Within that exposition, we learn that this is a world in drought — a long-term, 20-year drought, much like Arizona’s — and the situation is so dire that, by law, the only toilets around are pay toilets.

Violators who don’t use them are sent to the Urinetown penal colony.

This is, it would seem, the sole show about peeing that won multiple Tony awards.

The music was written by Mark Hollmann, lyrics were written by Hollmann and Greg Kotis, and the book was by Kotis.

The PCA version is part of its Summer Stock program, which showcases younger performers.

Director Scott Neese sees “Urinetown” as a direct descendant of shows like “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” which satirized the corporate world.

“It shines a light on some very relevant themes in the world today, such as how power and greed corrupts, how much of our safety we’re willing to give up for freedom, and so we’ve been able to talk about those really current issues,” he said.

And, while the show asks its audience to consider those weighty subjects, it does so within the framework of a comedy.

“When people come, they don’t walk away unaffected,” Neese said. “But it’s told with humor, which is a really great door into how that story gets told.”

The large cast, which ranges in age from 14 to 22, “fills the space” at PCA when everyone’s on stage, Neese said, and the program does not turn away performers through the audition process.

It’s an all-age show, he added.

“It has some really valid contemporary themes, and it’s very funny. I think there’s enough humor and enough story that all ages are going to appreciate it.”

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