Urinetown is one of the few truly original musicals not based on existing source material. Greg Kotis got the idea for Urinetown while traveling in Europe. A traveling student on a budget, he encountered a pay-per-use toilet and began writing shortly thereafter, joining with composer/lyricist, Mark Hollmann, for the journey to Broadway.
The success of Urinetown seems as unlikely as the show's title. The musical debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival, where it was an instant hit with audiences. Word of mouth spread quickly and the show was picked up for an Off-Broadway run, which took place at the American Theatre for Actors from May 6, 2001, to June 25, 2001. The reviews were wildly enthusiastic and the show then transferred to Broadway at The Henry Miller Theatre, running 25 previews and 965 performances from September 20, 2001, through January 18, 2004.
Featuring music and lyrics by Mark Hollman and book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, the production was directed by John Rando with choreography by John Carrafa. The original cast included Hunter Foster, Jeff McCarthy, Nancy Opel and Jennifer Laura Thompson. Principal cast changes included James Barbour as Officer Lockstock, Carolee Carmello and Victoria Clark as Penelope Pennywise and Charles Shaughnessy as Caldwell B. Cladwell, as well as Amy Spanger as Hope Cladwell.
A national tour of the show played major U.S. cities in 2003 and 2004 and starred Tom Hewitt, Christiane Noll and Ron Holgate. The show then premiered in Canada in May of 2006 and has had countless regional successes at such theatres as Drury Lane, Signature, Gateway Playhouse and Austin's Zach Theater.
The musical also enjoyed its UK debut in a limited-run production at the St. James Theatre in London.
- A Urinetown cast recording from the original Off-Broadway cast was released by RCA Victor on August 7, 2001.
- Beyond its three Tony Award wins, Urinetown was nominated for an additional seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical , as well as ten Drama Desk Awards and an Outer Critics Circle Award.
- Writers, Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, are reportedly developing both a prequel and a sequel to the show.
- Urinetown show was still selling well – and had just recouped its $3.7 million dollar investment – when, in early 2004, the producers were suddenly notified that The Henry Miller Theater would be torn down to make room for a new skyscraper, and the show was ordered to vacate the theatre by February of that year. Plans for finding a new home for Urinetown on Broadway never materialized.
- For several years, the characters of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally were featured in what became a yearly tradition at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS annual Gypsy of the Year benefit concert, in which the characters, portrayed by actors Jennifer Cody and Don Richard (both of whom understudied the roles in the original cast), performed a short comedy sketch, making fun of current Broadway shows.
- When it closed, Urinetown was the longest running show to ever inhabit The Henry Miller Theatre.