Monday, June 1, 2015

Urinetown the Musical

Book and Lyrics by:  Greg Kotis

Music and Lyrics by:  Mark Hollman

Company:  Equinox Theater Company

Venue:  The BugTheater, 3654 Navajo Street, Denver, CO 80211.

Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission). 

Date of Performance:  Friday, May 29, 2015.

I recently returned from a trip to Europe, where I literally ran head on into a couple of “urinetowns.”  Or, as they are more commonly known, London and Paris.  I arrived by train in each capitol city, and stopped by the rest room before leaving the station.  

Much to my surprise, both train stations had only pay toilets.  Thirty pence (about $.45) in London, half a Euro (about $.50) in Paris.  Since I was just arriving, I had no local currency.  None.  Nada.  For those who haven't had this experience, I can only tell you that they will not accept MasterCard or Visa.

Imagine my surprise.

I won’t repeat here the thoughts I was muttering under my breath as I slinked away from the “WC” in these stations.  Pay toilets are rare in the US; apparently we do not believe peeing should be profitable for a third party.  Travelers beware:  our attitude is not universal.  

Which brings us to Urinetown the Musical.  A decades long drought has made water a very rare commodity; private toilets have been replaced by public pay toilets.  It is against the law to avoid the pay toilets by going in the bushes.  Penalties for violations are harsh.  Pay toilets are VERY profitable for the heartless corporation that runs them.

It’s a creepy dystopian set up, but Urinetown the Musical is not a creepy show.  It’s a fun, bouncy, spoof of corporations, capitalism, and social responsibilities.  Best of all, it’s a spoof of Broadway musicals.  Look for a great send up of Les Miserables in the final scene of Act 1.

Equinox Theatre Company never lacks the huevos to take on a huge Broadway musical; they have already staged Debbie Does Dallas the Musical and Women on the Verge this season; Bonnie and Clyde the Musical is up next.  When you’re working on a small stage in an aging theater and with a tight budget, these are risky shows. Equinox takes those risks regularly, and Urinetown the Musical is the reward that both Equinox and audiences get for those risks.  It’s definitely one of the best productions I have seen from Equinox.
Abby McInerney (Little Sally), David Gordon (Officer Lockstock).

Director/Choreographer Colin Roybal has put a huge cast (22 credited in the program) on a small stage.  He keeps the actors moving fluidly on and off the stage; one never gets a sense of too big a crowd for the space.  He sets a measured but quick pace, never letting up on the action.  Roybal’s choreography (done with help from Stephanie Hesse) is splendid; the timing and movements are a joy to watch. Roybal may be the hardest working guy in Denver theater today; besides directing and choreographing, he also designed the set and lights for Urinetown the Musical.  He touches every aspect of this production, and that’s a good thing.  Roybal gets a lion’s share of the credit for making Urinetown the Musical work at every turn and at every level.

Caldwell B. Cladwell (Jim Hitzke) is the greedy corporate heavy.  Hitzke is convincingly
Jim Hitzke (Cladwell), Carolyn Lohr (Hope).
heartless; he plays his role with conviction, making peeing a privilege for those with the dough.  He totally nails his crucial musical scene, delivering Don’t Be the Bunny like a pro.  It’s a superb moment in this production, and Hitzke literally makes it sing.

Kalond Irlanda (Bobby Strong) is a gifted singer/actor/dancer, and he puts all his talents on full display here.  He deftly moves from regular guy to Hope’s (Carolyn Lohr) love interest to revolutionary, leading the masses to arms.  Irlanda starts out as a sweet, innocent character, and ends up the hero who gets the girl.

Carolyn Lohr (Hope).
It is, however, Carolyn Lohr who you will remember when you walk out of the theater.  Lohr plays the aptly named “Hope” with a wink and a smile, overacting appropriately as she glides through life.  Hope is the daughter of the corporate heavy, and the love interest for Bobby Strong.  She’s from the privileged elite, but fits in with the rebels.  Lohr sparkles, emphasizing her lines with flowing gestures, exaggerated expressions, and a killer smile.  She has a marvelous voice, and frankly, is the focus in a large cast every time she takes the stage.  According to the program, her day job is teaching first grade in Denver Public Schools.  I “hope” her students appreciate what a special person she is out of the classroom as well as in it.

The entire cast is talented; I could go on about David Gordon (Officer Lockstock), his cop partner Chris Arneson (Mr. Barrel), Sharhara Ray (Penelope Pennywise), Abby McInerney (Little Sally), Cody Schmitt (Mr. McQueen)  and Devin Bustamante (Senator Fipp).  The orchestra skillfully delivers every note of the score without overpowering the voices. There’s not room in this review for everything that works in Urinetown the Musical.  Suffice it to say that it all works, the cast and orchestra are very talented, and the fun factor is 10 on a scale of 10.

On a personal note, the next trip I make to Europe I will carry change for a Euro.  And for a Pound Sterling.  You never know when you’ll run into a need to pee…and pay. Hey…that might be a great name for a new business concept….”Pay & Pee.”  PnP for short.


Fair warning.  Don’t forget to get a token or two at the box office when you check in.  Tokens are needed to use the restrooms.  You must give the token to the security guard outside the “amenity.”  Welcome to Urinetown.  Don’t worry.  Unlike the cast, you can have as many tokens as you want…or need.

This show is appropriate for teens and up.  However, since the theme is satire, some teens may not get a lot of the references.

There is ample free parking on the surrounding streets and at the nearby lot for Patsy’s Restaurant at 37th & Navajo.

PHOTO CREDITS:  Equinox Theater Company


This show will close on June 6, 2015.


We stopped for a Happy Hour at the Yard House, 1555 Court Place, Denver (on the 16th Street Mall).  We got there just before Happy Hour ended (3:00-6:00, Monday-Friday).  Our waiter rushed our order to the bar and kitchen so we could get the discount.  

We split the Ham & Pineapple Pizza ($6.00 during Happy Hour).  It was plenty for both of us.  I had a Kona Longboard Lager ($1.00 off at Happy Hour, Kona Brewing Company).  Yard House boasts the biggest selection anywhere of draft beers.  If you can’t find your favorite here, well, you may have to go to Beijing to get Tsingtao on draft.  It’s cheaper to get a bottle at any decent Chinese restaurant.


Director/Choreographer: Colin Roybal

Music Director:  Michelle Fitzgerald

Assistant Director/Sound Designer:  Robert Harbour

Set & Lighting Designer:  Colin Roybal

Stage Manager:  Lauren Meyer

Costume Designer:  Valerye Jeffries

Co-Choreographer:  Stephanie Hesse


Bobby Strong:  Kalond Irlanda

Caldwell B. Cladwell:  Jim Hitzke

Hope Cladwell:  Carolyn Lohr

Officer Lockstock:  David Gordon

Penelope Pennywise:  Shahara Ray

Little Sally:  Abby McInerney

Mr Barrel:  Chris Arneson

Hot Blades Harry:  Tim Luoma

Josephine Strong:  Amy Stuemky

Mr. McQueen:  Cody Schmitt

Little Becky Two Shoes:  Kerri Emswiller

Soupy Sue/Ensemble:  Nicole Seefried

Tiny Tom/Ensemble:  Brad Wagner

Senator Fipp:  Devin Bustamante

Billy/Ensemble:  Jesse Caruth

Old Man Strong:  Eddie Schumacher

Ensemble:  Stephanie Hesse, Nicole Srott, Coleen Herskovits, Hannah Schell, Cameron Leonard, Greg Farinelli


Keyboards/Conductor:  Michelle Fitzgerald

Drums:  Brian Jaffe

Bass:  Erik Sabbeth

Reeds:  Mark Jennings

Trombone:  Gary Hand


  1. Would you care to review the Mikado?

  2. Michael: I'd love to, but from the looks of the ticket sales page at it's only running through this weekend. I'm booked with shows tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. If I'm wrong and it runs past this weekend, I might be able to get it on the calendar. In any event, please give me a heads up for future events...