From the moment you look at the program, the truth becomes obvious: this is a production that doesn’t take itself seriously. Dad’s Garage’s latest production Gutenberg! the Musical!, a spoof on the Broadway musical, provides plenty of laughs from this over-the-top story.
A two-man show, the musical, written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, ran Off-Broadway in 2006-2007, garnering a handful of award nominations, including a Drama Desk Award nomination for the book. While not the first show to poke fun at Broadway conventions (2005’s Spamalot comes to mind), it does so in a unique fashion as a play-within-a-play.
Bud Davenport and Doug Simon have written a new musical, and the pair is pitching the show to producers with dreams of a Broadway production. Their unusual show becomes interspersed with dialogue explaining their choices and reasons for including certain elements in the musical. For instance, since a short Google search shows that information on Gutenberg is sparse, the two decide to take artistic liberties and create historical fiction.
Now, Gutenberg is a wine presser and the only person in the town of Schlimer who knows how to read. After discovering that the town is illiterate, he invents the printing press, but an evil Satan-worshipping Monk wants to spoil the plan so that he can control the town with his false teaching of the Bible.
Once they have the concept, conventions of Broadway shows are worked into the musical, creating comedic, exaggerated moments. Since they know that the show needs a serious point to make, the writers work in the Holocaust through an anti-Semitic flower girl. Then, knowing that the production needs a charm song, the pair writes a song about biscuits, which has no relation at all to the story.
As the Broadway hopefuls Bud and Doug, George Faughnan and René Dellefont create memorable, hilarious performances. Each one runs around the stage switching from hat to hat (which have the characters’ names on them) and character to character without missing a beat. They bring something unique and interesting to the characters.
The crafty set, designed by Jamie Bullins, works well with the action onstage and the choreography by Amanda Thompson is praiseworthy. The show successfully creates a chorus line using two actors and a row of hats hanging from a string strung across the stage.
Directed by Justin Anderson Gutenberg! The Musical! at Dad’s Garage is a clever and entertaining production. It runs through May 10, 2014 at 7 Stages’ backstage theatre. For tickets and more information, visit the theater’s website. The show is an hour and a half with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton