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Urinetown finds an appropriate home

[The following article is scheduled to appear in Variety magazine the week of November 19th.]

Get a whiff of this!

When Greg Kotis set out to write a satire about the pay toilets he encountered every time he sought to answer the call of nature on a backpacking trip across Europe, little did he imagine his theatrical efforts would be taken so literally.

But in the arid west of the US, where survival often hinges on the conflicting interests of water rights and conservation, the themes of the script hit home with impresario Dan Wiley, who calls Kotis' hit tuner Urinetown "the greatest show ever written."

City & County of Denver, Department of Public Works’ Wastewater Management building
City & County of Denver,
Department of Public Works’
Wastewater Management building
After acquiring the rights and getting turned down by three theatres, Wiley had the brainstorm of putting it up in the City of Denver Public Works Department's Wastewater Management plant.

"I was riding my motorcycle past this great building I saw the sign and thought how perfect it'd be to do it there environmentally," he gushes.

After initial inquiries were stalled by the city bureaucracy, Wiley got local columnist Penny Parker of the Rocky Mountain News to trumpet his idea of staging the show in the bowels of the monolithic structure that squats in the heart of the industrial district bordering I-25, Denver's main north-south corridor. From there, everything plopped into place.

According to Wiley, "When she called the Mayor's office, he issued a quote of his support, which I then took to the Legal Department, who drew up the contracts."

Not content with environmental trappings, Wiley drives home a key plot device by charging patrons a quarter to use the portable facilities he's rented for the occasion.

"Urinetown is a mythical place where people have to pay to pee," he explains, "so it just made sense. Also, Super Bowl Portable Restrooms came to me after the first article ran and became my partner."

Michelle Merz as Hope Cladwell and Zander Meisner as Bobby Strong in the Wastewater Management production of Urinetown in Denver
Michelle Merz as Hope Cladwell
and Zander Meisner as Bobby Strong
in the Wastewater Management production
of Urinetown in Denver
Eager thesps stood in line for the chance to perform in the urgent, politically savvy musical.

"We promoted the auditions for three months and got 124 submissions. It's more than any other theatre gets in any one audition, so we had the best talent in town from which to choose."

Despite the marginal acoustics of the space, critics have raved about the production and auds have flooded the box office, selling out each weekend. Wiley's extended the show for two weeks, which brings him to the end of his contract with the city. While it's still up in the air whether the revenue stream will relieve his $40,000 outlay, Wiley is flush with excitement.

"If I don't earn it back," he muses, "so be it—it's the best education a man could ever have. … Now that I've learned how to navigate the waters of the city and get something this big accomplished, it's changed my life forever … I truly believe that anything is possible. I can't wait to do something like this again."

Bob Bows

 

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