Full disclosure: Gutenberg! The Musical! — which just opened Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters — is not, we repeat, not a musical about Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg. It is a musical about German megastar Johann Gutenberg, the guy who, way back in the 15th century, invented the printing press. (Hey, I had to look it up too.) And it’s the product of the exclamation-point-happy, pun-loving minds of two “superb comic writers,” Upright Citizens Brigade artistic director Anthony King and — you might know this guy — Hit List author, PopWatch pro, and EW senior writer Scott Brown.
So here’s the conceit of the spoof-ical: Doug Simon (played by Jeremy Shamos, pictured at left) and Bud Davenport (Christopher Fitzgerald, right) have written a musical about Johann Gutenberg, and they’re performing it in hopes of snaring deep-pocketed producers to bring their baby to Broadway. (It’s all very Mickey-and-Judy let’s-put-on-a-show.) So Doug and Bud play all 30 parts, including Woman, Another Woman, Beef Fat Trimmer, and Old Black Narrator. And with the aid of only a few props — a spray bottle, a stuffed cat, an electric pencil sharpener, and a whole mess of unfashionable trucker hats — the glamorous, rotting-garbage-scented town of Schlimmer, Germany, comes alive.
The score features what I’m pretty certain is the firstjellybean-themed ballad in theater history, and scores of references togreat musicals like West Side Story (the rooftop trio “Tomorrow Is Tonight”) and Into the Woods (“Festival!”), middling musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar (“What’s the Word”), and Disney musicals like Beauty and the Beast(the strolling-through-town tune “Schlimmer!”). The authors spoofAustin Powers, take a swipe at Elton John, toss in some Shakespeare,and give a shout-out to EW columnist Stephen King. They even manage tofind an intelligent rhyme for the word feces.
Anthony and Scott actually originated the roles of Doug and Bud;they got rave reviews for their London run last January. (Listen to theaudio clips! Scott was simply lovely as seductive stew-maker Helvetica.)And another thing, in the interests of full disclosure: The finaleinvolves a sing-along. Audience participation isn’t mandatory, buttrust us: “We Eat Dreams” makes a lot more sense when 100 people areharmonizing.