Bobby Garcia's Next Project: 'Urinetown'

Manila Bulletin, November 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

Bobby Garcia's Next Project: 'Urinetown'


I was falling off my seat, laughing, Bobby Garcia look back, fondly. He remembers quite distinctly the first time he caught Urinetown, in a super-small theater off-Broadway..

Even if the American Theater of Actors seemed much too cramped and crowded, Filipino stage director Bobby Garcia, the moving spirit behind the cutting-edge Atlantis Productions, had a rollicking evening watching Urinetown so much so that he thought of clinching the rights for the play and mounting it with his theater troupe back home in Manila.

It was a blast, Bobby recalls. And it was so hard to get a ticket for that show because of the demand. The word-of-mouth on that play was just spectacular.

There were only a hundred or so seats in theater, he relates. Of course, they moved to a bigger venue when the show hit Broadway.

It was the little train, ahem, show that could and did. It even won three Tony Awards, not to mention countless rare reviews from the likes of Liz Smith and Rex Reed along the way.

The success story that is Urinetown, a product of the 1999 Fringe Festival, is an inspiring tale for all struggling theater artists stranded on the margins, just waiting for the elusive big break.

Bobby, who watched both version, was simply hooked. The Broadway production was basically the same show as the off-Broadway original, he looks back. Except that the sets were cooler; the costumes were a bit nicer. It had a little more budget than the off-Broadway run, but still for a Broadway show it was pretty low-budget.

Still the cruel stepsisters (read: obstacles) for this poor Cinderella play seemed relentless. When it finally got the chance to transfer to the Great White Way, at the Henry Miller Theater to be exact, its opening fell on Sept. 13, 2001, two days after 9-11.

It was actually supposed to open on Sept. 11 itself, he remarks. Quite understandably, they had to move the premiere. Still, the response was overwhelming. For a show to open and to continue to run even after 9-11 is just amazing. Now, it is going on its third year.

Critic Bruce Weber of The New York Times asked rhetorically: Can we laugh and thrill to a musical at a time like this?

The answer apparently is a resounding Yes!

What could have sustained Urinetown in theater scene beleaguered by plummeting ticket sales and general audience fear and indifference?

I think it was because of how different it was from all the shows on Broadway, he quips. Its astounding just how it caught fire. Its one of the funniest musicals Ive ever seen, along with The Producers.

Stripped of its smart-alecky allusions and scathing parodies, Bobby believes that Urinetown is a good ole musical comedy at heart. What is so fun about it is that it spoofs other great musicals, from West Side Story to Fiddler on the Roof, from Annie to Evita, from The Cradle Will Rock to Les Miz.

Being a bona fide musical theater junkie, Bobby was naturally drawn to the humor, story, and music of Urinetown specifically, to the original score by Mark Hollman and the just-as-innovative book by Greg Kotis.

Its a lot like The Rocky Horror Show, he quips. I am doing Urinetown for the sheer fun of it, but also because I love musical theater. Ive always loved musicals. And Urinetown is a celebration of musical theater. And it makes great fun of it at the same time. It lampoons everything you can imagine, but within the context of a very good story.

Its about greed, betrayal, politics, all the steamy, sleazy, seedy aspects of life in the big bad city.

Theres a drought, he discusses the plays plot. And there are no private toilets anymore and a corporation has taken over all the public restrooms.

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