Like Steeltown, Urinetown is run by a ruthless tycoon. The bold strokes used here, however, are gray. The noble poor prove to be easily corruptible, and the hero who isn't thrown off a building turns into a shortsighted demagogue. Despite all of his hyperactive villainy, the boss is an effective conservationist.
The book, performances, and choreography are frequently funny (Tom Hewett is hilarious as the corrupt cop/narrator, bringing to mind Phil Hartman and Tom Jones). And there's something great in how lavishly Urinetown invests in its ludicrous premise (let's just say it involves a water shortage). But the music, though studied and adept, is never quite sharp enough as parody or original enough as plain old music. By the time the second hour of self-reflexive jokes has come to a close, the whole concept has sprung a leak.