“Urinetown The Musical” takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions — sort of.
The bawdy comedy makes viewers at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City laugh, then wonder if it’s OK to chuckle when people are dying and falling sick from the buildup of nitrates in their full-to-the-brim bladders.
Even murders and government corruption are presented with such a dollop of slapstick humor, glittery vests and flamboyant behavior that it’s hard to feel too bad about giggling.
There’s also the added fact that even the actors know they are part of a musical because of the over-the-top, stereotypical deep-voiced narrations of police officer Lockstock, played by Brandon Schraml.
Even the name makes note that this isn’t a play in which people should lose themselves in a created land. It’s a musical. Everyone knows it’s a musical.
The production takes place in a town facing a 20-year drought that has caused corporations and politicians to regulate the water supply by banning private urination and forcing people to use public, pay-for-use toilets. Many people can’t afford to go and either must hold it or face the consequences.
“It’s a privilege to pee,” said Lindsay Naas, who plays Penelope Pennywise.
Lockstock begins the show telling the audience of this cruel reality. He is surrounded by dancing townspeople on a grungy sidewalk by one of the city’s worst public facilities. Behind him are parodies of recognizable advertisements such as “Budwater, what else are you going to drink?” and a play off the Levis brand stating that brown is the new black, since here in this grimy city the citizens don’t have the luxury of frequent showers. There’s also a neon sign promoting Rio, the ideal place where all the corrupt politicians and tycoons plan to slink off to at some point — maybe when the going gets extra bad.
And even when the going gets good in the eyes of the people, it goes back in the stinky dumps again as a nod to living unsustainable lives. So although a life of excess might be fun in the now — generations to come might have a nasty future, the musical seems to sing.
All the actors are adept at magnifying their quirky traits. Lockstock is a little too chipper since he’s basically a henchman for the town’s reigning corporation, “Urine Good Company,” which hauls citizens off to Urinetown — an unpleasant place of lore — if they refuse to pay for their morning defecation.
The nymphomaniac Pennywise takes any opportunity to spread her legs, grab her breasts and rub up on any of the other characters. There’s also Little Sally who has extreme cross eyes. (The actress, Macaela Sears, doesn’t have the same affliction.) Officer Barrel, played by Charlie Stoop, gets turned on by every man. Other residents of this draught-ravaged town have high voices, an obsession with knives, alcoholism (even if drinking in a place without bathrooms is a bad idea) and general insanity.
Caldwell B. Cladwell owns Urine Good Company, which is staffed by a gang of workers who smile creepily and do Cladwell’s dirty work. His only daughter Hope, who is ironically filled with way too much of her name for her own good, has recently come home from the world’s most expensive college to be intertwined in this questionable organization.
Hope, played by Brittney Santro in her New York City debut, falls in love with the leader of an uprising against the strict urination laws, the handsome Bobby Strong, played by Will Sevedge. But just because there is love, doesn’t mean there is happiness.
“This is not a happy musical,” the narrator reminds the audience.
“But the music is so happy,” Little Sally moans.
And the music is upbeat and catchy. Sears, as Little Sally, belts out an impressive solo of “Tell Her I Love Her.” Pennywise and Hope both have some impressive voices — although everyone in the musical showcases some pretty impressive pipes.
“Urinetown The Musical” is up for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards, which anyone can vote in at nyitawards.com.
When: through Saturday, Jan. 26: Thursdays to Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m.,
Additional performance on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 3p.m.
Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., LIC
Tickets: $18, secrettheatre.com, (718) 392 0722