when Gutenberg! Musical! It premiered Off-Broadway 17 years ago, and critics wondered if it was ready for a Broadway run. Maybe they should have asked if Broadway was ready for this Gutenberg!
After all these years, the answer to both questions is yes. Not only is the music tuned and polished; ShockedThe Broadway era is clearly in the mood for some silly, silly fun.
Waiting for the best has worked in other ways, too: The Broadway production opening tonight at the James Earl Jones Theater has a big bonanza starring Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, two very funny, strong-voiced actors who have finally decided to share the stage again 12 years after they first did so. Book of Mormon.
Written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, the duo who wrote the book beetlejuice musical, And directed by the very busy Alex Timbers (Here lies love, just for us, Moulin Rouge! Musical And yes, BeetlejuiceFor example but not limited to) Gutenberg! is a delightful theatrical parody that’s clever enough to titillate enthusiasts and downright funny enough to appeal to strangers. Few in either group will remember the musical score for long, but even fewer will listen to the flawlessly performed show tunes without smiling.
The premise of a show within a show – just one of many theatrical tropes that… Gutenberg! References, from the exclamation point title on down – has two overly optimistic theater buffs named Bud (Gad) and Doug (Rannells) performing the musical they’ve written to a assembled audience of potential backers. While they were nursing home by day, the fellows spent every last cent they earned (or inherited) on a one-night stage rental and some simple DIY props. (Only a curmudgeon would envy the brilliant lighting design of duo Jeff Kreuter, or Scott Pask’s sublime set, backstage laden with what at first glance looks like a lot of accumulated detritus; all of it will be put to good use in the end.)
The musical by Bud and Doug is, as the title states, a musical about Johann Gutenberg, the famous inventor of the printing press and maker of the Bible. With a few quick spoils of Google searches and high spirits, the guys pieced together the outlines of life—and made up the rest. History certainly wouldn’t support Gutenberg’s assistant and his sort of sidekick named Helvetica.
Set in the non-existent medieval German city of Schlemmer, the Bud-and-Doug musical follows the impossibly cheerful Johann Gee as he seeks to improve the squalid, ignorant lives of the tattered city’s inhabitants. If only they could read, he believes, people wouldn’t mistake clearly labeled jars containing jelly beans for the ones that could save their sick children.
With imaginations far greater than their bank accounts, Bud and Doug—and then Judd and Rannells—portray worthy Hamlet characters, from the inventor and his lovable assistant to the obnoxious little flower girl, several workmen, drunks, and the wanted villain (A). A Satan-worshipping monk named Monk who conspires to thwart Gutenberg’s democratic approach to literacy). Who needs costume changes when you have a ton of trucker hats bearing character names?
Certainly not Bud/Doug/Gad/Rannels, who also distinguish between the city’s various residents with a large number of dialects, and no single historically accurate dialect. This is a 14th century German town with Cockney and Cajun sounds more frequent than Teutonic.
In the odyssey of the original Off Broadway production (and before that, the more elaborate one-act Upright Citizens Brigade), Gutenberg! It maintained its enthusiasm and raucousness (for Bud and Doug, literally), even as its musical accompaniment expanded from a single pianist to a three-piece group (TO Sterrett did the excellent orchestration). All the while, the show’s spirit and sense of humor retain their best friend’s sweetness and seemingly ignorant irreverence. Close attention pays off in spotting modern old jokes, like winking references to Back to the Future: The Musical, Aladdin: The Musicaland pretend pop stars six.
(Another notable change: The word “Holocaust,” used in the original production as a joking reference to Bud and Doug’s tense attempt to “address at least one serious issue,” has been replaced with the less specific “anti-Semitism,” as embodied by the obnoxious Little Flower Girl. (Given world events Finally, even jokes with clearly the right direction may not have the same impact as they did even a week ago.)
Musically, Brown and King are nothing if not Broadway educated: Gutenberg! “Full of traditional parodies like mission-setting ballads, rock outros and the requisite ‘witch song,’ the latter of which Bud and Doug explain away as an unrelated number – this song about biscuits – written specifically to appeal to a popular artist who wants to pass on for A quick turn to grab attention. “For example, we hope that Sir Timothée Chalamet will play the young monk one day,” Budd says.
Let’s hope not. Nothing against Timothy, but Jade and Rannells don’t need help. with Gutenberg! Musical!Reunion The Book of Mormon The stars step up their challenge to Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as Broadway’s leading comedy duo. Print a hat for that.
Title: Gutenberg! Musical!
place: Broadway Theater James Earl Jones
exit: Alex Timbers
Book, music and songs: Scott Brown and Anthony King
He slanders: Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells
Running time: 2 hours (with a break)
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