Entertainment: What happens when you have to pay to pee?

Water shortages can bring out the worst in human beings.
That is the premise of the musical, “Urinetown,” being presented this month by Palm Coast’s City Repertory Theatre.
“It is a very funny show,” said John Sbordone, co-founder of the CRT and the organization’s lead director. “It’s the little guy fighting the big guy.”
Abuse of power and greed are just two of the dastardly elements on display in the plot of this musical that is chock full of potty humor. To avoid setting off any spoiler alerts, we won’t tell you all the bad things that happen to the characters in this show. You will have to go see the show yourself to find out exactly what a water shortage does.
However…. we can tell you the following without ruining the show for your watching enjoyment.
The plot is this: Extended drought has created a significant water shortage and public toilets are targeted as excessive users of water. The powers-that-be in the fictional locale have determined the best way to ration water is to charge the residents – the bulk of whom are lower class poor – to use public toilets. A less-than-above board company – ironically named Urine Good Company – is created to oversee the pay-to-pee scheme. Of course, the residents rebel. And bad things happen to them when they are caught attempting to use public toilets with paying to do so or opting to use the bushes instead.
“This show is absolutely a statement on our culture today,” said Sbordone. “It is a satire on our legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, corporate mismanagement and corrupt politics.”
But that’s not all. What show dealing with human behavior would be complete without some romance?
Urinetown offers that as well as Hope Cladwell, CEO of the UGC, and Bobby Strong, the leader of the resident rebels, falling madly in love, creating the type of conflict that the sale of romance novels depends upon.
And as can be common in a small-town setting, Urinetown also gives acknowledges nepotism. The woman heading up the UGC is the daughter of Cladwell B. Cladwell, the town’s head law enforcement whose main task to ensure that its residents pay to pee adding positively to the UGC’s bottom line.
Earl Levine, a longtime actor with the CRT whose past theatrical experience includes on and off-Broadway work, plays Cladwell B. Cladwell.
He told Palm Coast Magazine he is ready to have some “fun” with the role. Well, so actually what he said is that he is ready to be the nasty villain that Cladwell B. Cladwell is written to be.
“It is always fun to play a villain,” said Levine, who played the evil Mordred in “Camelot” in upstate New York playhouses. “You get to be nasty and do all the things that you don’t necessarily do in real life. You get to express anger and venom. The nastier and the angrier you are, the better job you do playing a villain. That is how you play a villain.”
Levine, who is known around Palm Coast as a genuinely “nice” gent, uses advice from one of the greatest British actors of the 20th century in his preparation to get mean.
“Olivier (Laurence Olivier) said that the actor is the great understander,” he said. “This is what enables you, as an actor, to get behind every character you play and figure out what motivated that character to do that thing you (as the actor) are portraying.”
Levine’s character gets some backup from Officer Lockstock played by Beau Wade, a CRT actor since 2016 who also occasionally takes on the role of director with the playhouse.
That is Officer Lockstock assists Cladwell B. Cladwell with pay-to-pee enforcement when he isn’t busy with his other role in the musical serving as one of two “narrators of sort.”
Officer Lockstock and the character, Little Sally, spend a fair amount of their onstage time engaged in commentary of the musical ranging from the “predictability” of Hope Cladwell and Bobby Strong’s relationship to social commentary on the “unsustainable way of life” the water shortage highlights.
“This musical is a lot about class warfare,” said Wade, who has played the role of Lockstock before. “It is your class rich versus poor scenario.”
The musical score of “Urinetown” includes references to songs from classic Broadway hits including “Les Misérables,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
The highlight song of the musical is titled, “It’s a Privilege to Pee,” scheduled to be song by the CRT’s powerhouse soprano, Philippa (Flip) Rose as the character, Penny.
The lyrics of the song chide Bobby Strong to “get his head out of the clouds” and recognize “that no one gets in for free,” as Bobby pleads the case of an older man who doesn’t have enough money to cover the cost of using the public toilet.
The 14-member cast of CRT’s production of “Urinetown” are all vaccinated, Sbordone said. Theater officials are using cleaning and sanitation protocols that meet COVID guidelines and the audience is asked to wear a mask in an effort to provide an venue ready for safe enjoyment of comedic theater, he said.
“This show throws barbs at everything,” said Sbordone. “For each member of the audience, it will hit something along the way. But it will do it while you are laughing.”
“Urinetown” performances are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday the weekends of October 22-24 and 29-31. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 PM, Sunday performances begin at 3 PM.
Tickets are available at the CRT website: www.crtpalmcoast.com/urinetown.
— Amy Armstrong