Plot summary

Urinetown begins with a friendly welcome from our narrator, Officer Lockstock. Officer Lockstock and the adorable moppet Little Sally fill us in on the back-story. As the result of a terrible water shortage, private toilets have become unthinkable. All restroom activities are handled through a private corporation, the Urine Good Company (UGC for short). To control water consumption, people have to pay to use public amenities (that is, public toilets) for their "private business". As Lockstock says, "That's the central conceit of the show."

Masses huddle in line, desperate to use Public Amenity Number 9, one of the poorest, filthiest urinals in town, run by Penny Pennywise and her assistant, young everyman Bobby Strong. Trouble ensues when Bobby 's father, Joseph "Old Man" Strong can't afford his urinal admission for the day. When Old Man Strong asks Pennywise to let him go for free just this once, Penny is forced to draw the line in It's a Privilege to Pee.

By the end of the song, Joseph Strong has made up his mind. "It's no way to live, I tells ya! No way to live!" he screams as he pees right on the street, with Pennywise, Bobby, Little Sally and his wife Josephine Strong looking on. Officer Lockstock and his man, Officer Barrel arrive on the scene immediately. After a brief investigation, Old Man Strong is arrested and escorted off to Urinetown. The masses fall back into line immediately.

The scene changes to the offices of Urine Good Company, where the CEO of the UGC, Caldwell B. Cladwell is assuring Senator Fipp that the agreed upon bribes will come through provided that the senate approves additional restroom fee hikes (and vice versa). Cladwell 's daughter, Hope Cladwell soon arrives for her first day on the job as the UGC's new fax/copy girl, and is ogled by Fipp and Cladwell 's lackey Mr. McQueen. Cladwell summons the rest of his staff, and explains to everyone that the fax/copy position is just the first step as Hope is groomed to inherit the UGC empire. He then proceeds to explain the workings of the UGC (and his staff proceeds to brownnose shamelessly) in Mr. Cladwell.

Hope then arrives after a long night of faxing (and copying). Bobby arrives with fire in his belly, complaining that the people are growing restless over rumors of more fee hikes. The cops remind Bobby to keep his head out of the clouds, lest what happened to his father happen to him. Bobby remains defiant, attracting and intriguing innocent young Hope. When the police leave the scene, Bobby admits to his feelings of guilt and confusion over not doing more to save his father. Hope encourages Bobby to follow his heart in Follow Your Heart. But even as Hope 's heart tells her to fall for Bobby, Bobby 's heart is laying plans for a new tomorrow...

As the two exit, Little Sally and Lockstock look on. After observing that Hope sure seems to love Bobby, Little Sally tries to get Lockstock to tell her about Urinetown. Lockstock refuses, explaining that if he revealed that there was no Urinetown and they just killed people, it would ruin the suspense.

Meanwhile, the police have gotten wind of the plot, and rush into the UGC offices to tell Cladwell of the disturbance. Hope is shocked to learn of Bobby 's involvement, but urges her father not to use violence against the protesters, but to look inside the rioters' hearts to see what made them pound so angrily. Cladwell gently explains that sometimes the only way to keep the peace is with beatings, because life itself is a beating, in the song Don't Be the Bunny.

Cladwell and the police rush to the amenity, and protesters, police and powerful elites clash during the Act I Finale. In the confusion, Little Sally joins the rebellion and Bobby is accused of kidnapping Hope. As the situation becomes more desperate, Bobby decides that their only way for the revolution to survive is to actually kidnap Hope. Bobby and the revolutionaries get away with it, because the dance choreography forces the police to move too damned slowly.

Intermission - The restrooms are packed as the audience reflects on how lucky they are to live in a world where people pee for free. Sometimes they flush twice in celebration.

Act II starts with What is Urinetown as frustrated authorities struggle to find the rebels, who are hidden away in a clearly labeled "Secret Hideout". Cladwell orders a full scale mobilization of the police to find Hope

The rebels ask Bobby why, if things went so well, did he yell for them to "Run! Run for your lives!" at the end of Act I. Bobby explains that he said that in the heat of battle, and in the heat, the actual hotness of the battle, the cry of freedom sounds something like Run Freedom Run. Bobby 's rousing gospel cry to action seems to be going well until he praises his fellow rebels for having the courage to commit to a decades-long struggle. Their good will fades quickly.

Luckily, at that moment Pennywise infiltrates the secret, bearing a message from Cladwell. Cladwell wants Bobby to come to the UGC to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Bobby goes, eager to avoid bloodshed and effort.

At the UGC headquarters, Cladwell offers Bobby a suitcase full of cash and full amnesty to the rebels as long as Hope is returned and the people agree to the new fee hikes. Bobby refuses, demanding free access for the people. Cladwell refuses, and orders the cops to escort Bobby to Urinetown. When Pennywise points out that Urinetown for Bobby could mean the end for Hope, Cladwell ruthlessly refuses to give in to the demands of terrorists. Lockstock and Barrel haul Bobby off.

In the next scene, Little Sally returns to the Rebel hideout, having just heard Bobby 's semi-coherent last words, which she recounts to everyone in Tell Her I Love Her.

Hope is released and she promptly convinces the rebels to let her lead the revolution. Cladwell is shocked to find his daughter is still alive, and even more shocked to learn that she is now in charge of the rebellion. Hope orders Cladwell off to Urinetown.

Now that she is in the seat of power, Hope assures her followers that the age of fear is over. As I See a River begins, she looks ahead to a new age where the people can pee as much as they like, with whomever they like, whenever they like in whatever location they like. But as the song progresses, things take a turn for the worse. Officer Lockstock's epilogue says it all:

Of course, it wasn't long before the water became silty, brackish, and then dried up all together. Cruel as Caldwell B. Cladwell was, his measures effectively regulated water consumption, sparing the town the same fate as the phantom Urinetown. Hope, however, chose to ignore the warning signs, choosing instead to bask in the people's love as long as it lasted... Hope eventually joined her father in a manner not quite so gentle. As for the people of this town? Well, they did the best they could. But they were prepared for the world they inherited, weaned as they were on the legend born of their founding father's scare tactics. For when the water dried up, they recognized their town for the first time for what it really was. What it was always waiting to be...

This is Urinetown!

Always it's been Urinetown!

This place it's called Urinetown!

And with a roar of "Hail Malthus", the curtain falls...

It's not a happy musical.