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"Urinetown" to Open at Footlighters with Timely Commentary

It's a privilege to pee / Water's worth its weight / In gold these days
No more bathrooms / Like in olden days
You come here and pay a fee / For the privilege to pee…

In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage caused by a 20-year drought has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a malevolent mega-corporation "Urine Good Company."

Outrageous? You’d better believe it.

Almost 20 years old and more timely than ever, award-winning musical satire Urinetown, The Musical is getting its local first community theater revival in several years at Footlighters in Newport, opening May 3.

Be ready to guffaw at the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, municipal politics, and even musical theatre. (There are lots of quick nods to Broadway hits for true-blue musical fans.)

Bunny Arszman will direct. Arszman was the indefatigable leader of Showbiz Players until it pulled down the curtain for the final time last season, finishing the last few years of productions at The Carnegie in Covington.

Arszman has loved Urinetown since she was introduced to it in its Broadway in Cincinnati run. “I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even know it was a musical!”

She’s returning to Urinetown after a 10-year break and, while she’s especially “getting a kick out of” new cast members “bringing their vision to the show,” Arszman is bringing two favorite veteran players with her from the Showbiz production.

Gary Rogers is Officer Lockstock, tough-talking beat cop and narrator. (He also apologizes for the show starting with too much exposition.)

Sherry McCamley is Penelope Pennywise, the bureaucrat who oversees the poorest, filthiest urinal in town.

“It feels great to be in this show again, it's one of my favorites,” McCamley said. “I love Pennywise because she is absolutely crazy. She's basically insane except for a few moments of clarity here and there. I can be totally over the top!”

Arszman and McCamley agree the musical feels more timely than ever. McCamley notes, “What I once thought was unthinkable - a resource like water controlled by an evil corporation - seems much more likely in our era of Trump and big corporations, especially with cutting back on all the regulations that have helped curb pollution, etc.

“I've been feeling more and more that our entire society is becoming controlled by the very rich, and this show, although a funny satire, could actually predict what might be coming in the future! I hope not, but we'll see...”

Oh, and fear not, young hero Bobby Strong (Robert Breslin IV) rises up to lead the wretched townsfolk. Well, fear a little and ponder the adage, “Be careful what you wish for….”

Fun fact: Urinetown’s co-creator Greg Kotis had the idea for Urinetown while he was a student on a budget traveling in Europe – and encountered a pay toilet.

Fun fact: McCamley has a little confession. “I must admit that I thought I would remember more from the earlier production than I actually did - it took me longer to memorize my lines. Guess I'm feeling my age a bit!”

Urinetown, May 3-19. The Footlighters, Stained Glass Theater, 802 York St., Newport. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundaym additional performance 8 p.m. May 16. Tickets $22 plus $1 handling fee. 859- 652-3849 and here.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Photo: Gary Rogers (Officer Lockstock) & Robert Breslin IV (Bobby Strong)/by Mikki Schaffner (provided)