For me, Broadway musicals are an excruciating form of torture. I'd rather stab myself in the head than listen to "West Side Story," "The Sound of Music," or anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. But "Urinetown" is a remarkable exception, for two major reasons.
First, these guys clearly understand why some people hate musicals so intensely. Every groan-inducing convention of the musical theater is ruthlessly satirized with intelligence and wit. Yet none of this lampooning is mean-spirited, despite its deadly accuracy. The tone is almost affectionate, much as one would describe an old friend who passes gas frequently.
The second reason for the show's success is an obvious one: the music is really good. It is far more taut than the nauseating melodic smears and scooping that have come to characterize the dreaded "Broadway show tune." The highlight is "Run, Freedom, Run," a parody of that awful inspirational song that invariably shows up in Act II of the canonical musical. In addition to being hilarious, it's a toe-tapping and memorable piece of music.
"Urinetown" needs to be seen in person, as much of the humor is visual: the mock-enthusiastic choreography for "Run, Freedom, Run" brings down the house. Nonetheless, the CD stands well on its own, and is an enjoyable document of an astonishing accomplishment.