‘Gutenberg! The Musical!’
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: 8 p.m. today and Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 3
HOW MUCH: $25-$23
MORE INFO: 794-8989, www.theaterbarn.com
If you want to know a little bit more about the theater world, check out “Gutenberg! The Musical.” It’s not only a play, it’s an audition and a staged reading.
Written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, “Gutenberg! The Musical!” comes to the Theater Barn in New Lebanon tonight through Aug. 3, starring Dominic Varney as Doug and Shaun Rice as Bud. Allen Phelps is directing.
“It’s a show about two guys, Doug and Bud, who are writing a musical and hope to sell it to Broadway producers,” said Phelps, who is the son of Theater Barn founder Joan Phelps. “It’s just those two actors playing 23 different parts, including five female characters. The premise is that it’s a staged reading, so like it says in the script, there are minimal props and set. Anything there would have been created by the two guys.”
“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is a comedy, and both Varney and Rice feel right at home in that genre. Rice worked at the Theater Barn two summers ago in “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” and has recently finished a two-year run as Uncle Fester in a national touring company production of “The Addams Family.” Varney, a University of Maine theater professor, has performed at the Theater Barn in its 2011 production of “Boeing-Boeing” and a 2012 staging of “And Then There Were None.”
“We are so pleased to have these two guys back with us,” said Phelps. “For a show like this you have to know what the chemistry is going to be between the two actors, and we know these guys. They’re both comic actors, and they can also sing. It’s a perfect vehicle for both of them.”
“Gutenberg! The Musical!” was developed in 2005 by Brown and King at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. It opened off-Broadway in December 2006 and was nominated for three awards, including Best Musical, Best Director and Best Score. Since then it has been produced all over the U.S., as well as Great Britain and Australia.
The story that Bud and Doug are trying to sell is about Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. in “Gutenberg! The Musical!” the main character is a wine presser in the medieval German town of Schlimer. Everything seems fine on the surface in Schlimer, but to help his townsfolk learn to read, Gutenberg changes his wine press into a printing press. There is a beautiful assistant in the script as well as an evil monk.
“We’ve been thinking about doing this play for a couple of years now,” said Phelps. “It’s kind of a farcical, musical revue, and it fits our space here at the Theater Barn very well. I haven’t seen a production of this before, but everything you read about it is good. It has extended runs, great reviews everywhere.”
While there is a tight script that the actors follow, Phelps says he allows them plenty of freedom on stage.
“In this type of show there is a good opportunity to improvise, and if you’re quick on your feet, like these two actors, you let them go a little bit,” said Phelps. “Directing these two is so much fun. I kind of give them a road map, the specific choreography, but they’re comedians and one night something might take them down a different road from where they went the prior night. They don’t necessarily change lines that much, but each night the script seems fresh and new.”
New York City-based Mason Griffin, who has also worked for Stageworks/Hudson, is the musical director.
“He’s up there on the stage with his electronic piano,” said Phelps. “There is a lot of music, a lot of singing in the show, and we have two very good baritones who, when they’re doing the women, can also go falsetto. Everything is fast-paced. It’s a very entertaining show.”
“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is the third production of Theater Barn’s 2014 summer season, and there are two more. “I Love a Piano” will be offered from Aug. 7-17, and from Aug. 21-31, Varney will be back on stage as Uncle Fester in the Theater Barn’s production of “The Addams Family.”