“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is fabulous! You must see it!
Oh, the power of the exclamation point. Sparingly used, it speaks volumes. Overused, it highlights the emptiness of the ideas it desperately wants to celebrate.
‘Gutenberg! The Musical!’
WHERE: Stageworks/Hudson, 41-A Cross St., Hudson
WHEN: through June 29
HOW MUCH: $27-$22
MORE INFO: 822-9667
Broadway wannabes Doug Simmons (Billy Kimmel) and Bud Davenport (David Tass Rodriguez) punctuate their enthusiasm for a new musical they’ve co-written with wide eyes, joyous grins, sweet self-satisfaction at their creative genius, and earnest hope that we — potential financial backers — will embrace their show about the inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg.
In fact, they assure us, the strangers sitting next to us are probably producers looking for the next smash!
So begins the uproarious regional premiere of Scott Brown & Anthony King’s affectionate take on dreams and ego. Book writer Doug and composer Bud are 30-somethings who believe they have an important contribution to make to musical theater. They’ve jettisoned one idea of writing a show about ALL of Stephen King’s works in favor of this story of Gutenberg. The beauty part is that, because he’s from a different time, they can spice up the history, about which they know little, with fiction.
Plus, it’s a story with serious themes like the Holocaust, reading, and following your dreams! In fact, the show’s finale is a sing-along called “We Eat Dreams.”
To pitch their show, Doug and Bud play all of the characters (including a wicked Monk and Helvetica, Gutenberg’s love interest), sing all of the songs, dance (at one point Doug concludes a number with a split!), and share important personal back stories (Doug is gay; Bud is a virgin!).
The play’s unending humor comes from the disconnect between what they’re doing and what they think they’re doing. For example, early on they suggest that Broadway musicals follow formulas. There’s the prologue, the “I want” song, the rap song, the charm song and the big rock finale of Act I. Of course, they’re partially right about formulas, and when they open Act II with an indictment of the second acts of famous musicals, the comments are both funny — and accurate.
Kimmel and Rodriguez are clown princes who never condescend. Their Doug & Bud sing the various roles with passion, overact the drama, out-Fosse Fosse, and all with a sweet and daffy sincerity. Brilliant performances.
The actors are deliciously abetted in their mania by pianist Jesse Chandler; tech crew Deena Pewtherer, Phil Elman, and Jennifer Schilanksy; and director Laura Margolis, who must reluctantly, but rightly, have had to crack the whip on occasion.
Margolis has cleverly exploited the contrast in size between Kimmel and Rodriguez, by the way, and one can’t imagine a different kind of pairing.
So, in this day of high fuel prices, make a whole day of it in Hudson: a walking tour of the town/river, a meal, and a visit to Stageworks. You’ll be glad you did!