Theatremakers bring this semi-historical, entirely hilarious Gutenberg! The Musical! to life for Brisbane’s Anywhere Theatre Festival 2016.
Broadway wannabies Bud Davenport and Doug Simon (played by Anthony Demarco and Louis Peake) are doing a reading of their (less than historically accurate) musical about the inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg, hoping to attract the attention of a Broadway producer. Join them as they two-handedly recount Gutenberg’s brave quest to make the town of Schlimmer literate. Will he succeed before evil Monk destroys his printing press?
The simple set is comprised of two boxes labeled ‘wine press’ and ‘bucket’, a piano and pianist, and a table of hats. The hats were my favourite feature of the musical, incidentally. Each had a different name on it, and when donned they signified a different character (e.g. Dead Baby, Woman, Another Woman). There was so much to love in this production, but my favourite scenes were in a crowded market place where Demarco donned a whole pile of hats at once, stripping them and playing many roles in quick succession, and a two-man kick-line where hats changed with dizzying speed. The simplicity of the set also meant the audience was forced to engage their imagination, which drew them into the world of the show.
Gutenberg! The Musical! works so well because Doug and Bud take their musical so seriously, while the audience can’t. In this production, both Demarco and Peake give absurdly good straight face, as well as great and varied character voices and physicality. They fully committed to, and indeed reveled in, the show’s deliciously absurd silliness. When the very silly, yet catchy songs aren’t being sung, Doug and Bud frequently step out of character to give meta-commentary explaining the function of a scene or song, or the vision they have for a scene once endowed with a Broadway budget (The best stage direction they gave was ‘The stage is filled with gloom…and fog!’). This was hilarious, particularly to people heavily into musical theatre who know how overblown shows can be. This show was fast-paced and sheer fun.
Delightfully evocative of musicals like [Title of Show], Urinetown, Avenue Q and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Guttenberg! The Musical! is a hidden gem of the Anywhere Theatre Festival. I feel ill when I realise how easily I could have missed this show. Many a good laugh to be had- no refutin’-berg.