[Review] Pangdemonium’s Urinetown

The musical Urinetown finally makes its Singapore debut – staged by Pangdemonium – after its success on Broadway in 2001, winning three Tony Awards.

The basic story: set in the dystopian ‘most expensive city in the world’, a cross-border water crisis and led the government to ban private toilets. Citizens have to pay to pee in public toilets operated by a megacorporation called Urine Good Company (UGC) owned by Caldwell B Cladwell, and public peeing is punishable by a trip to ‘Urinetown’.

Threatened with a pee-fee hike, the poor citizens can no longer hold it in, and they stage a revolution led by Bobby Strong. Along the way, he manages to fall in love with Hope Cladwell – daughter of Caldwell, owner of the UGC – whom he kidnaps in order to have a leverage.

Urinetown, at its simplest, is a satire about capitalism, corruption, and the oppression of the lower classes, with the act of peeing representing the necessities of life. Woven around this central theme are characters that represent the ‘good’ side – the average lower class citizens – and the ‘bad’ side: the rich tycoon, a corrupt politician, and their cronies.

While it tells the tale of the fictional town, some adjustments were made to the script to make it relatable – the pee fee tax is called the ‘ERP’, and the water shortage is caused by the ‘crazy man’ from across the bridge. There was even a nod to Trump’s MAGA speech. In addition, the musical is littered with puns and plenty of gags, making it one of the funniest musicals you’ll see.

Kudos to the entire cast who were amazing on stage. Lasalle grads Mina Kaye and Benjamin Chow, who played Hope Cladwell and Bobby Strong, really sold the show with their vocals. The supporting cast – from Sean Ghazi’s ‘Caldwell’ to Jo Tan’s ‘Pennywise’ and Mae Elliessa’s ‘Little Sally’ – rounded out the impressive cast list.

If you enjoy musicals, this is not one to miss. Its song-and-dance sequences feature choreography almost worthy of a Kpop dance routine, showcasing the talents of the entire cast who have to balance singing and jitterbug dancing.

Set at a time when Greta Thunberg is leading her climate protest, Urinetown is also a very apt musical to address the issue of climate change. While this is a musical satire that gleefully takes the piss out of politicians, populism, “people power”, capitalism, corruption, and musicals, the messaging is far from happy. As Little Sally says, “What kind of musical is this?! The good guys finally take over and then everything starts falling apart.”

Urinetown is currently staging at Drama Centre Theatre, with tickets from $50-$90 (matinees) and $60-$100 (Fri/Sat evenings) until 13 October 2019.