Denver gushing over ‘Urinetown’

Show bows at Dept. of Public Works building

Get a whiff of this!

A Denver revival of “Urinetown” has opened the floodgates — literally.

In the arid west of the U.S., where survival often hinges on the conflicting interests of water rights and conservation, the themes of Greg Kotis‘s Tony-winning tuner hit home with impresario Dan Wiley, who calls Kotis’s satire “the greatest show ever written.”

After acquiring the rights and getting turned down by three theaters, Wiley had the brainstorm of staging the show in the City and County of Denver, Dept. of Public Works’ Wastewater Management building, where the show bowed Nov. 3.

“I was riding my motorcycle past this great building, I saw the sign and thought how perfect it’d be to do it there environmentally,” he gushes.

After initial inquiries with the city bureaucracy stalled, Wiley got columnist Penny Parker of the Rocky Mountain News to trumpet his idea of staging the show in the bowels of the monolithic structure. From there, everything fell into place.

According to Wiley, “When she called the mayor’s office, he issued a quote of his support, which I then took to the legal department, who drew up the contracts.”

Wiley also drives home a key plot device by charging patrons a quarter to use the portable facilities he’s rented for the occasion. ” ‘Urinetown’ is a mythical place where people have to pay to pee, so it just made sense,” he says.

Despite the marginal acoustics of the space, critics have raved about the production and auds flooded the B.O., selling out each weekend. Wiley had extended the show for two weeks through Dec. 17, which brings him to the end of his contract with the city.

While it’s still up in the air whether the revenue stream will relieve his $40,000 outlay, Wiley is flush with excitement.

“If I don’t earn it back, so be it,” he says. ” Now that I’ve learned how to navigate the waters of the city and get something this big accomplished, it’s changed my life forever.”

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