Shameless jokes at the industry's expense, all delivered with the wide-eyed innocence and enthusiasm of the childlike Bud Davenport and Doug Simon: welcome to Gutenberg! The Musical!, a historical fiction riffing off the "adventures" of the printing press' inventor, Johannes. And, thanks to the fantastic performances, you don't have to be able to read to enjoy it!
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
If you get to Carnegie Hall with practice, you get to Broadway with lasers, a million drunks, and the Holocaust (a show must have gravitas). Gutenberg! The Musical! isn't quite there yet; you see, Bud Davenport and Doug Simon (Christopher Fitzgerald and Jeremy Shamos) have this really exciting musical in their heads, but until a Broadway producer (perhaps the person sitting next to you) picks up their show, they'll have to do it all themselves. That's okay! Bud and Doug have a secret weapon: miles and miles of heart. And if you come to see their "staged reading," you'll marvel at how two talented actors can take on thirty characters, three big chorus numbers, and a fabulous kickline. Forget a shoestring budget: these two are going barefoot for the love of theater, and if you love watching the industry get slammed or want to see a musical dissected, this is absolutely the show for you.
For everybody else: seriously, what's not to love about two good-natured guys singing charm songs as vague and irrelevant as "Biscuits," songs as campy as "Haunted German Wood," or ballads as ridiculous as "Tomorrow is Today"? Fitzgerald and Shamos approach the work with such earnestness, from the bulging eyes of astonishment to the giddy squeals of excitement, that it would take a man far colder than the villainous (and eponymous) Monk to hate this show. Plus, the script was written (and originally performed) by two members of Upright Citizen's Bridgade (Scott Brown and Anthony King), so not a moment goes by that isn't fresh with humor. The music is clever and endearing, and the book is filled with hysterical truisms: "A metaphor is when you say one thing and mean another, but you're not lying" and "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."
If characters are your thing, Fitzgerald and Shamos have that covered too. Fitzgerald takes on characters as diverse as the ingenue Helvetica or the sinister Monk, along with all the random characters in between (like Drunk #2 or the Anti-Semitic Flower Girl). Shamos, as the shameless self-promoter Gutenberg, is also all over the place, taking on the roles of Young Monk and Old Black Narrator, just to name a few. They do all this while still playing the overarching roles of Bud and Doug, and it's as smooth as a Dead Child's bum.
There may not be a single true thing said about Gutenberg, but Gutenberg! The Musical! can do no wrong. Like stage adaptations of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Cannibal! The Musical! or the recent, bloody funny Evil Dead: The Musical, this is a show that doesn't just earn its two exclamation points: it exclaims them, too. Be amused, be very amused.
Actor's Playhouse Theater (100 7th Avenue South)
Tickets (212-239-6200): $25.00-50.00
Tuesday-Friday @ 8:00; Saturday @ 7 & 10; Sunday @ 3 & 7
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.