Gutenberg!, Poking Musicals in the Eye, Opens in NYC

News   Gutenberg!, Poking Musicals in the Eye, Opens in NYC Gutenberg! The Musical!, another example in the trend of musicals about musicals, opens in a limited Off-Broadway run Dec. 3, at 59E59 Theaters.
Gutenberg! The Musical! stars Jeremy Shamos and Christopher Fitzgerald.
Gutenberg! The Musical! stars Jeremy Shamos and Christopher Fitzgerald. Photo by James Ambler

The sound you hear on East 59th Street may be howls of laughter from show fans who appreciate the comic musical's skewering of musical theatre conventions — to say nothing of spoofing lame-brained tunesmiths who haven't a clue what a good musical is.

The award-winning sensation of the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival began its current commercial run Nov. 21. The bare-bones two-actor musical in which hapless musical theatre writers Bud and Doug perform their own backers' audition — and spoon-feed the audience the rules of the musical form — was embraced by audiences earlier this fall at NYMF.

Its NYMF players, Broadway veterans Christopher Fitzgerald (Wicked, Amour) and Jeremy Shamos (Reckless, The Rivals), return for the fresh run. They were winners of the 2006 NYMF Award for Outstanding Individual Performances for their work on the show in September.

T.O. Sterrett serves as musical director/arranger/pianist, accompanying the self-conscious, eager writer characters. He plays humorless pianist "Charles" (the character's name used to be "Larry").

Directed by Obie Award winner Alex Timbers (Hell House, Boozy, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant), the musical continues to Dec. 31. Given the producers attached, this is likely a test run for a larger commercial future for the daffy show. According to the producers (including such major Broadway players as Ron Kastner and Terry Allen Kramer), "In the two-man musical spoof, a pair of aspiring playwrights, Bud Davenport [Fitzgerald] and Doug Simon [Shamos], perform a backers' audition for their new project — a great big musical about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. They hope that one of the producers in the audience will give them a Broadway contract — fulfilling their ill-advised dreams. With an unending supply of charm, enthusiasm and idiocy, and accompanied by Larry, their pianist, Bud and Doug sing all the songs and play all the parts in their crass historical epic, using only baseball caps to differentiate between the show's 30 characters."

The creative team includes lighting designer Tyler Micoleau and costume designer Emily Rebholz.

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Co-written by Anthony King and Scott Brown (winners of the 2006 NYMF Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre Writing – Book) Gutenberg! The Musical! plays the 99-seat space at 59E59 Theaters.

Gutenberg! The Musical! is presented Off-Broadway by Trevor Brown, Ron Kastner, Terry Allen Kramer and Joseph Smith.

The tiny musical was first developed at the improv-driven Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, an artistic home for writers Brown and King, in 2003. An excerpt of the musical was showcased at the 2005 New York Musical Theatre Festival as part of the NYMF Comedy Series. Gutenberg! The Musical! had its world premiere in a critically acclaimed production at The Jermyn Street Theatre in London in January 2006. The U.S. premiere was presented this past September as part of the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival (with Fitzgerald and Shamos). Prior to the U.S. premiere, all previous presentations and productions were devised and performed by the authors, Anthony King and Scott Brown.

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Intimacy is everything in this show, and a much larger theatre would spoil the warts-and-all fun of the amateur-writers' pitch. You want to see them sweat. It's a purposefully low-tech love letter to musical theatre and the passionate souls who create it — and those of us who devour it.

The performance schedule for Gutenberg! The Musical! is Tuesday through Friday at 8:15 PM, Saturday at 4:15 PM and 8:15 PM, and Sunday at 3:15 PM and 7:15 PM.

The week of Dec. 18, the schedule will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8:15 PM, Friday at 7 PM and 10 PM, Saturday at 4:15 PM and 8:15 PM, and Sunday at 3:15 PM.

The week of Dec. 25, the schedule will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8:15 PM, Friday at 7 PM and 10 PM, Saturday at 4:15 PM and 8:15 PM, and Sunday at 3:15 PM.

Tickets are $35 and are available via www.ticketcentral.com at (212) 279-4200.

Tickets for 59E59 Members are $24.50. For more information about 59E59, please visit www.59e59.org.

For Group Sales (20 percent off for groups of 10 or more) please call Splinter Group Productions at (212) 354-8833.

For more information, visit www.gutenbergthemusical.com.

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Gutenberg! The Musical! is part of an apparent new trend in American musical theatre — the musical about musicals. To varying degrees, Spamalot, The Producers, [title of show], The Musical of Musicals — The Musical! and The Drowsy Chaperone are examples of the form.

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