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A CurtainUp Review
Gutenberg! The Musical

Gutenberg! The Musical Gets Yet Another Chance to Win Audiences

Jeremy Shamos as Doug & Christopher Fitzgerald as Bud in rehearsal for Gutenberg! the Musical border=
Jeremy Shamos as Doug & Christopher Fitzgerald as Bud in rehearsal for Gutenberg! the Musical!
I went along with Carey Purcell to see this two-person musical last September because I was curious to see if the 40-minute showcase version we reviewed at an earlier Festival had improved with expansion. Alas, I thought that even the talented Shamos and Fitzgerald were not sufficient reason for expanding and reprising this, and while Carey liked it better than I did, she also wasn't all that smitten with it. And yet-- maybe because Shamos and Fitzgerald ARE gifted clowns and the sheer chutzpah of this much done show within a show conceipt -- this little musical generated sufficient enthusiasm to move beyond its brief Festival life for a regular run at the 59E59 complex. While the creative team and performers have undoubtedly further fine-tuned the show, it's basically the same as what we saw at the Festival. Therefore, except for the current production notes, we'll let the review below suffice for the show's current permutation. Gutenberg! The Musical! began its current run at at 59E59 Theaters, (212/ 279-420) on December 3, 2006 and will run through December 31st. The creative team is the same as listed at the end of the Festival review. Performance schedule: Tue — Sat at 8:15pm; Sat at 4:15pm; Sun at 3:15pm, 7:15pm Tickets are $35.

—Elyse Sommer

Our take on Gutenberg! The Musical at the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival
This show is less the comedy it was intended to be than a tragedy. That because it has two superbly talented actors putting so much time and energy into such a flawed project. The story revolves around Doug (Jeremy Shamos), and Ben (Christopher Fitzgerald), who wrote a musical. that theyare desperate to have done on Broadway. Consequently the show is structured as a backer's audition. With no supporting cast, Ben and Doug explainthe scenes and songs as they go along and use printed baseball hats with the names of the characters that they are playing. Sometimes they play several characters at once -- and thus quite literally wear multiple hats.

The story is set in Schlimmer, Germany where Gutenberg, the wine presser is one night is inspired to make the printing press. An evil monk, whose power derives from being the town's only literate man. Other characters include Gutenberg's assistant Helvetica, two drunk men, an anti-Semitic flower girl, an old black narrator, and a dead baby. Doug and Bud take breaks from their marathon performances to comment and explain ("That's called character development" is their comment after a song they call "the love ballad".. . .what they call a "charm song," is supposed to distract the audience from the show's actual plot). The men's personal lives also come into play, with Bud sharing the fact that he is looking for a wife and Doug revealing that he is gay. The interactions between them as characters is more entertaining than the show that they supposedly wrote. Gutenberg is not without wit and some of the lyrics are truly clever. But its success, if any, comes from the heroic effort put forth by Shamos and Fitzgerald, their ability to shift quickly and effectively from character to character. As Helvetica, Fitzgerald sings a high-pitched wistful ballad about her love for Gutenberg.. As the Bad Monk, he wails a raspy jazz melody about his fetish for pain, all the while inexplicably sharpening pencils. Fitzgerald's physicality is admirable. Shamos matches his ability to switch roles, from the hero and title character to the stoic Beef Fat Trimmer, to the subservient sidekick to the Bad Monk. Both men are vocally talented, and when Shamos slips into Elvis singing-style during his inspiration to create the printing press, it provides a much-needed moment of authentic levity. Sadly, all these actors' valiant attempts can't fulfill the show's intentions as a musical spoofing musicals. The idea has been explored before — and better.

Book, music and lyrics by Anthony King and Scott Brown. Directed by Dave Mowers. Musical Direction by Matt Castle. Running time: 90 minutes with an intermission. Sage. Sept. 22 at 8pm; Sept. 25 at 4:30pm; Sept. 27 at 8 pm; Sept. 28 at 8pm; Sept. 30 at 1 and 4:30 pm. Reviewed by Carey Purcell, Sept. 27.

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