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New York Post
August 5, 2001







 

By JOSHUA TANZER

The pay-per-pee musical "Urinetown" didn't sound like anybody's idea of a Broadway hit two years ago, despite the sellout crowds that saw it performed during the New York Fringe Festival.

But now, "Urinetown," a musical about a place where it's no longer free to pee, is on its way to the Henry Miller Theater — and more eyes than ever are on the fifth annual Fringe.

The festival, which kicks off Friday, has emerged as a kind of minor-league venue for Broadway hopefuls, attracting both producers looking for a hot property and downtown hipsters looking for fun.

The 17-day, 20-theater, anything-goes stage and dance extravaganza propelled "Urinetown" to the big time. What might it flush out next?

"That's the question everybody's asking," says the festival's artistic director, John Clancy. "And the answer is, guaranteed, it will come out of nowhere."

The 198 shows at the Fringe (there's a full schedule at www.fringenyc.org) range from "What were they thinking?" weird to "Where have they been all my life?" brilliant.

Fortunately, at the off-off-Broadway price of $12, you can afford to experiment.

Meanwhile, The Post has done some scouting of its own to see which shows have the biggest hit potential. A handful of prospects:

• "21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com," a very funny recap of Internet mania from a guy who answered the phones at Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

• "Debbie Does Dallas," a daring stage version of the '70s porn classic.

• "Doing Justice," a documentary about the Columbiane High School massacre.

• "Take," a promising drama from two past Fringe award winners.

• "Break the Floor," a rock 'n' roll tap-dance spectacle.

Just remember, it's not called the Fringe for nothing. The production values are low-budget, and the staging is minimal because the sets have to be put up and torn down in 15 minutes to make room for other shows.

One indicator of the festival's scrappiness: All the shows are staged in venues within 15 blocks of each other on the Lower East Side, not exactly an area known for its posh performance spaces.

But the shows are intimate, some of tomorrow's greatest talents are on display, and, rest assured, there's bound to be something out there that you'll love.





Which of the 198 Fringe Festival shows will be a breakaway hit? We've calculated the odds, and rated the shows' buzz and "Fringiness" on a scale of 1 to 10:

"21 DOG YEARS"
Following in the footsteps of his former boss, Amazon founder and former Time man of the year Jeff Bezos, Mike Daisey might well become the Fringe's man of the year in 2001. While Bezos built Amazon into a multibillion-dollar, cash-burning Internet miracle, Daisey was doing his part to expand the company — as a phone-answering customer-service representative. The worst one in the whole company, to hear him tell it.

Daisey's one-man show comes to town sporting raves from its original run in tech-happy Seattle. (Those with patience and really, really fast Internet connections can catch the show's web version on the official site, www.mikedaisey.com.)

BUZZ: 10 (out of 10)
FRINGINESS: 6 (out of 10)
ODDS: 3:2

"DEBBIE DOES DALLAS"
If there's one show that promises to out-outrage "Urinetown," it's this one. Yes, this is the same "Debbie Does Dallas" that ruled the porn world in 1978. Director Susan Schwartz obtained the stage rights to the script, and that's exactly what they'll use when this show debuts Friday night — with a few alterations.

"Obviously, there's going to be no actual sex on stage," Schwartz says, "but we hope that what we provide will be more than that."

"Debbie Does Dallas" has got everybody's attention even before the festival starts, and it could quickly become a camp favorite if it delivers smartly on its promise of raunchy fun.

BUZZ: 10
FRINGINESS: 10
ODDS: 2:1

"DOING JUSTICE"
School violence has caught the attention of more than one off-off-Broadway playwright this year, and "Doing Justice" is the most intriguing of the festival's three plays on the subject. Adina Taubman conducted interviews with people from Columbine, Colo., about the 1999 school massacre there, and she's turned this material into a one-woman show.

BUZZ: 8
FRINGINESS: 7
ODDS: 9:1

"TAKE"
 

Two members of the team that won top awards at the last two Fringe Festivals are back with "Take," the story of a woman who discovers that her husband is gay and all her friends have known it for years.

Diminutive downtown drama diva Susan O'Connor takes her third turn after big hits with "Never Swim Alone" and "See Bob Run," which went on to extended runs off- and off-off-Broadway. Timothy P. Jones, the director of those two Daniel MacIvor-penned plays, is the writer of "Take," which, on the strength of résumés alone, is a good bet to make it big at the Fringe and beyond.

BUZZ: 6
FRINGINESS: 7
ODDS: 9:1

"BREAK THE FLOOR"
It's "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk," only with Da Rock instead of Da Funk.

This production is an outgrowth of a tap-dance workshop held late last year and a series of New Year's shows featturing a huge cast of dancers and a rock band with percussionists from the off-Broadway hit "Stomp." Created by 20-year-old tap phenom Gil Stroming, the show already has dates linked up at the Apollo Theater in December and could catch on with fans of New York's other noise fests.

BUZZ: 6
FRINGINESS: 7
ODDS: 4:1

— Joshua Tanzer




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