The original stars of The Book of Mormon reunite on stage for a hilarious parody of musical theater and historical fiction.
A Musical About The Printing Press?
You might think that a musical about Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and the mass production of books, would be a boring and dry affair. But you would be wrong. Gutenberg! The Musical! is a riotous comedy that pokes fun at the conventions and clichés of Broadway musicals while celebrating the power of storytelling and imagination.
The show is framed as a backer’s audition for a potential musical that two aspiring writers from Nutley, New Jersey have created. Bud Davenport (Josh Gad) and Doug Simon (Andrew Rannells) are two nursing home workers who have spent their life savings on renting a theater for one night to pitch their musical to some influential producers in the audience. They act out all the scenes and songs themselves, using only some hats with names taped on them to indicate different characters.
The musical they have written is based on a very loose interpretation of Gutenberg’s life and achievements. They set it in a fictional medieval town called Schlimmer, where everyone is illiterate and miserable. Gutenberg is a cheerful and naive inventor who dreams of making people happy by giving them books. He has a loyal assistant and love interest named Helvetica (yes, like the font), who supports his vision despite the opposition of an evil monk who wants to keep people ignorant and under his control.
The plot is full of absurd twists and turns, such as Gutenberg inventing the printing press by accident while trying to make a wine press, Helvetica being kidnapped by the monk and forced to join his choir of blind orphans, and Gutenberg printing his first book: a Bible with some typos and inaccuracies.
A Parody With A Heart
Gutenberg! The Musical! is not just a spoof of musical theater tropes; it is also a tribute to the passion and creativity of theater artists who pursue their dreams despite all odds. Bud and Doug are clearly clueless about history, musicals, and pretty much everything else, but they are also endearing and earnest in their attempt to create something meaningful and original.
Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells are perfect for their roles as they bring their comedic timing, vocal prowess, and infectious energy to the stage. They switch between different characters with ease and conviction, making each one distinct and memorable. They also have great chemistry as they play off each other’s jokes and reactions.
The show also features some catchy and clever songs that parody various musical genres and styles. Some of the highlights include “I Can’t Read”, a lament by the illiterate townsfolk of Schlimmer; “Tomorrow Is Tonight”, a romantic duet by Gutenberg and Helvetica; and “Stop The Press”, a climactic showdown between Gutenberg and the monk.
The show is directed by Alex Timbers, who has a knack for staging inventive and immersive musicals. He makes use of the simple set and props to create a dynamic and engaging spectacle. He also adds some meta-theatrical touches that break the fourth wall and involve the audience in the show.
A Hit In The Making
Gutenberg! The Musical! has been around for a long time, having debuted Off Broadway in 2006. It has since been performed in various venues and countries, and has gained a cult following among theater fans. It has also been praised by critics for its originality and humor.
The Broadway production, which opened on October 12, 2023 at the James Earl Jones Theatre, marks the first time that Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells have shared a stage since they starred in The Book of Mormon in 2011. The two actors have since become successful in film and TV, but they have not forgotten their roots in theater. They bring their star power and charisma to the show, making it a must-see for anyone who loves musicals and comedy.
Gutenberg! The Musical! is a rare gem that combines satire and sincerity, laughter and tears, history and fiction. It is a musical about the printing press that will leave you impressed.