Abstract

This essay examines the critical and commercial success of Urinetown: The Musical in light of its dual status as Broadway hit and subversive satire. In the wake of its 2001–04 Tony Award–winning Broadway run, Urinetown has become one of the most frequently produced shows in recent years. Its traditional musical structure, broad comedy, and accessible parody have guaranteed its popularity among audiences, while critics have praised its shrewd satire. As mainstream political theatre, Urinetown achieves an even deeper level of subversive success in its recalibration of audience expectations for both musical theatre and satire. This includes an incorporation of Brechtian and even Kafkaesque aesthetics within an integrated musical with overt references to musical theatre history. A consideration of Urinetown’s reception as Broadway hit, national tour, and regional-and university-theatre staple opens up a new approach to its subversive potential. This essay argues that, even more than its overt political commentary, the absence of political resolution creates Urinetown’s real potential for perverse radical critique within middlebrow culture. The Brechtian open-ending, rather than liberal exhortations, suggests a future for subversion within mainstream satire.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 41-56
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-16
Open Access
No
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