Gutenberg! The Musical!

“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is an inventive and comedic stage production that stands out for its unique approach to musical theater. Written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, the musical premiered off-Broadway in 2006 and quickly garnered attention for its originality, humor, and clever storytelling. Unlike traditional musicals that often feature large casts, elaborate sets, and complex production elements, “Gutenberg! The Musical!” takes a more minimalist approach, relying on the talents of just a few performers to bring its story to life.

The Premise

The musical follows the enthusiastic, albeit misguided, efforts of two aspiring playwrights, Doug and Bud, who are pitching their latest work to potential Broadway producers. Their subject is Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, whom they mistakenly believe to have a dramatic and historically significant life story ripe for musical adaptation. The catch? Their research is severely lacking, leading to a hilariously inaccurate portrayal of Gutenberg and his achievements.

The Structure

What makes “Gutenberg! The Musical!” particularly unique is its meta-theatrical format. Doug and Bud not only serve as the narrators but also play all the characters in their would-be musical, donning silly hats with character names written on them to distinguish their roles. This approach allows for rapid-fire changes between the myriad of characters they portray, from Gutenberg himself to a variety of fictional townsfolk affected by his “invention.”

Musical Numbers and Comedy

The songs in “Gutenberg! The Musical!” are intentionally over-the-top, mirroring the earnest but clueless ambition of its central duo. With titles like “I Can’t Read,” “Streets of Beef,” and “Biscuits of Freedom,” the musical numbers parody the conventions of Broadway hits while advancing the absurdly fictional plot concocted by Doug and Bud. The comedy throughout is both broad and smart, appealing to theater enthusiasts with its inside jokes about musical theater while remaining accessible and hilarious to all audiences.

Reception and Legacy

Since its off-Broadway debut, “Gutenberg! The Musical!” has enjoyed success in various productions around the world, including runs in London, Australia, and across the United States. Critics have praised its originality, wit, and the way it celebrates and satirizes the art of musical theater. The show has also become a favorite among theater companies looking for a small-scale production with big laughs and a lot of heart.

Conclusion

“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is a testament to the creativity and versatility of musical theater. By focusing on the passion and perseverance of its delusional yet endearing protagonists, the show delivers a message about the importance of following one’s dreams—no matter how misguided they may be. It’s a hilarious, heartwarming, and irreverent tribute to the world of theater and the enduring legacy of one of history’s most important inventors, even if it gets almost every historical fact wrong in the process.


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dabodab is my sound and art studio blog (and other things). I am Briyan Frederick (aka Bryan Baker), a graphic arts professional, songwriter, experimental recording artist, publisher, local and personal historian, grassroots business supporter, silver creative, podcaster, vlogger and zinester. I’m better known as the publisher of GAJOOB and a founder of Tapegerm Collective read more.

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