With a title like Urinetown The Musical, you wouldn't think local, non-professional theater companies would risk it: Audiences hereabouts might just turn up their noses at suggestions of effluvial waste.
Yet McKeesport Little Theater, just up the hill from the flowing Mon, digs into the task with gusto, talent and skill. Face it: This show has made a name for itself and has been running all over this continent since 2001, winning three Tony Awards while tickling and provoking people even willing to stand in line for seats.
FYI, despite the title, this is not raunchy, potty humor. Sleazy? Well, yeah, some of characters are slick and slimy. But that's because this is a satire where Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis' book and lyrics dig into such filth as corporate greed, corrupt politics and police brutality.
Think Bert Brecht, complete with in-your-face audience confrontation. Except that the show doesn't remain darkly serious, but also sends up musicals, complete with a narrator calling attention to show-biz clichés. Plus, Hollman wrote some good choral parts in his mostly utilitarian score. He doesn't really go Weill, or try to.
A big city's interminable and massive water shortage has caused a government-enforced ban on private toilets. Citizens have to pay to use public ones, with a major facility zealously guarded by Penelope Pennywise. A big corporation called UGC (Urine Good Company), headed by Caldwell B. Cladwell, profits by charging admission. Violators of the ordinance get hauled off under the direction of Officers Lockstock and Barrel to dreaded Urinetown, from which the malefactors never again surface. After Cladwell's daughter Hope falls in love with revolution leader Bobby Strong, it looks as if things will come out all right. But, in these Sondheim days, living happily ever after may not be an option.
While a few of the 22 performers deliver only minimal interpretations of their words, and some lack the timing to keep the pace snappy, most look and sound up to the demands of director Dorothy Fallows' effective staging, and to the harmonies and high notes required by music director Bob Neumeyer.
As for the style that makes this show work best, Andy Coleman's got it dead to rights as Officer Lockstock in his deadpan delivery and sturdy interpretation. And playing Penelope, Joyce Hinnebush's snazzy swagger and sneer add much class. Ryan Baker also gives Bobby sweet charm.
By the way, the theater's men's and ladies' rooms have fresh soap, clean running water and ample towels ... free.
Urinetown The Musical continues through May 23. McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St., McKeesport. 412-673-1100 or www.mckeesportlittletheater.com