Urinetown at St James Theatre is a splendid blend of The Beggar’s Opera and South Park

12 Mar

Metro

Jenna Russell plays Penelope Pennywise in Urinetown (Picture: Johan Persson) Jenna Russell plays Penelope Pennywise in Urinetown (Picture: Johan Persson)

In some dystopian alternative reality, drought has brought about environmental disaster, not to mention a major lavatorial crisis.

As a result, citizens are only allowed to relieve themselves in public amenities – the punishment for going in the bushes is too severe to risk. Thanks to the profit-making machinations of the Urine Good Company, though, the cost of using the toilets has risen so high, many ordinary folk can’t muster the coins to spend a penny legally.

Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis’s daft-but-serious musical spoof became a Broadway smash at the beginning of the noughties.

It has real iconoclastic verve: not only does it send up the conventions of musical theatre, it also takes aim at both corporate cynicism and lazy populism, and offers a heartfelt environmental message. Tonally, it’s a bit like The Beggar’s Opera updated by the South Park…

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