Pissing the Night Away

Urinetown champions life, liberty and the right to relief

Here's a philosophical question for you: How can a down-home, church-on-Sunday, God-fearing Christian boy from Spring, Texas, possibly take the lead in a Broadway musical named after human waste? Easy, says Charlie Pollock, Urinetown's leading man. "I'm such a 16-year-old when it comes to humor anyway. I love pee jokes, fart jokes, whatever. I'm a little kid that way."

Besides, this pee ditty is all in good fun, he's quick to remind you. Centered more around corporation-versus-little-guy conflicts than the bathroom, the musical has managed to delight just about everyone -- and picked up the Tonys to prove it.

In the show, a Gotham-like city is gripped by a massive water shortage, and the local government has outlawed any water usage deemed wasteful. So, as explained by Officer Lockstock (his partner's name is -- you guessed it -- Barrel), the townsfolk must now use pay-per-use public facilities operated by the heartless Urine Good Company (the puns, they keep a-comin'). The company's president, the Bill Gates-ish Caldwell B. Cladwell, has pressed for severe punishment for anyone not using his facilities. In short, he's got the lavatorial monopoly.

Christiane Noll and Charlie Pollock are golden in 
Urinetown.
Joan Marcus
Christiane Noll and Charlie Pollock are golden in Urinetown.

Details

Opens 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, and runs through Sunday, April 11; For information, call 713-629-3700 or visit www.broadwayacros samerica.com. $23 to $64.
obby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby

Enter Bobby Strong (played by Pollock) and Penelope Pennywise, who manage a filthy local urinal. When Bobby's dad shows up penniless but needing to pee, Penelope denies him. So he drains his weasel in the street. Bobby watches as Officers Lockstock and Barrel haul pop off to Urinetown, an ominous penal (ha!) colony.

Furious, Bobby starts a revolt, but not before meeting his love interest, Hope, who just happens to be Mr. Cladwell's daughter. The riot ends in a standoff, and Bobby too is hauled off to Urinetown. Bolstered by his courage, the crowd moves to overthrow Cladwell, which is where things get, um, pissy.

On the surface, part of Urinetown's plot may be perceived as sophomoric and, at worst, offensive. But not to "smart theater people," says Pollock, pointing out the play's references to classics like Fiddler on the Roof and even works by Brecht. "You know, some people really get it, and some don't," he says. "To some, it may look a little familiar and funny. But if you know anything about Bob Fosse, for example, you'll look at some of these numbers and say, 'Oh my gosh!' And we quote directly from West Side Story."

Even if he's a devout Christian who sings at his local church, Pollock hasn't always had choirboy roles. Sometimes he's had to bare much more than his soul for a role, but such dedication has taken him from his days as the lead in shows at Klein Forest High School to a career as a successful working actor in New York. "I'm still such an actor, in that I just want to get jobs," he shrugs. But Pollock does acknowledge that his future is pretty bright -- he's been fielding calls from hordes of stage and television casting agents.

The chiseled performer from Spring figures he's reserved over a hundred seats for friends and family at Urinetown's Houston premiere, where he'll take the stage to fight the good fight, woo the crowd and leave the ladies -- sorry -- flushed.

 
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