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Gutenberg! The Musical
Our take on Gutenberg! The Musical at the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival
This show is less the comedy it was intended to be than a tragedy. That because it has two superbly talented actors putting so much time and energy into such a flawed project. The story revolves around Doug (Jeremy Shamos), and Ben (Christopher Fitzgerald), who wrote a musical. that theyare desperate to have done on Broadway. Consequently the show is structured as a backer's audition. With no supporting cast, Ben and Doug explainthe scenes and songs as they go along and use printed baseball hats with the names of the characters that they are playing. Sometimes they play several characters at once -- and thus quite literally wear multiple hats.
The story is set in Schlimmer, Germany where Gutenberg, the wine presser is one night is inspired to make the printing press. An evil monk, whose power derives from being the town's only literate man. Other characters include Gutenberg's assistant Helvetica, two drunk men, an anti-Semitic flower girl, an old black narrator, and a dead baby. Doug and Bud take breaks from their marathon performances to comment and explain ("That's called character development" is their comment after a song they call "the love ballad".. . .what they call a "charm song," is supposed to distract the audience from the show's actual plot). The men's personal lives also come into play, with Bud sharing the fact that he is looking for a wife and Doug revealing that he is gay. The interactions between them as characters is more entertaining than the show that they supposedly wrote. Gutenberg is not without wit and some of the lyrics are truly clever. But its success, if any, comes from the heroic effort put forth by Shamos and Fitzgerald, their ability to shift quickly and effectively from character to character. As Helvetica, Fitzgerald sings a high-pitched wistful ballad about her love for Gutenberg.. As the Bad Monk, he wails a raspy jazz melody about his fetish for pain, all the while inexplicably sharpening pencils. Fitzgerald's physicality is admirable. Shamos matches his ability to switch roles, from the hero and title character to the stoic Beef Fat Trimmer, to the subservient sidekick to the Bad Monk. Both men are vocally talented, and when Shamos slips into Elvis singing-style during his inspiration to create the printing press, it provides a much-needed moment of authentic levity. Sadly, all these actors' valiant attempts can't fulfill the show's intentions as a musical spoofing musicals. The idea has been explored before — and better.
Book, music and lyrics by Anthony King and Scott Brown. Directed by Dave Mowers. Musical Direction by Matt Castle. Running time: 90 minutes with an intermission. Sage. Sept. 22 at 8pm; Sept. 25 at 4:30pm; Sept. 27 at 8 pm; Sept. 28 at 8pm; Sept. 30 at 1 and 4:30 pm. Reviewed by Carey Purcell, Sept. 27.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide