‘Gutenberg! The Musical!’
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: Through August 3
HOW MUCH: $25-$23
MORE INFO: 794-8989, www.theaterbarn.com
Plays with a handful of actors in numerous roles are very popular right now — the Reduced Shakespeare Company comes to mind.
Shows with a heightened sense of urgency and pacing, which often leave the audience wondering whether the actors will completely make the costume change or remember which character they’re playing in which scene or if there will be a mishap with the speed in which they use the props are very often audience-pleasers and easy (and inexpensive) for a theater to stage, as well.
Plays such as this, however, are not often musicals, which makes “Gutenberg! The Musical!” an interesting beast. Not only do you have two men playing every role in a musical with a large cast, you have them singing the songs — both male and female — as well.
The concept is this: Bud (Shaun Rice) and Doug (Dominick Varney) have written a musical about Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press (Why? Well, because their earlier musicals about the complete works of Stephen King and vampires just didn’t work out). They are performing a reading of the musical to catch the eye of a Broadway producer they imply is in the audience. As it’s a reading, they beseech us to use our imaginations, because they’ll be playing all the parts and singing all the songs — and the show will be more fantastic with a full cast (and, of course, a budget for lasers).
What follows is a musical about evil monks, singing rats, anti-Semitism, a small German town that smells terrible, illiteracy, grape-stomping and dead babies. Throughout, Bud and Doug are wide-eyed with joy, sure this is their ticket to the Great White Way.
Although not a great work of art, the show is enjoyable and irreverent. Rice and Varney have enough energy for a full cast, and their voices blend very well. They are both quite talented at creating characters that are completely discernible from each other — you are never confused about which character the actor is playing. The choreography is fun and a bit manic, as well — you never lose the main point, which is that these two men are trying to sell this musical (and think this somewhat-shaky show is the best thing that’s ever been created.)
“Sometimes it’s nice to see a show that’s just silly,” an audience member mused on her way out of the theater, and she’s right. There are plenty of shows on area stages right now that can make you think, which is never a bad thing, but sometimes you just need to turn your brain off for the evening and laugh at an energetic show that doesn’t take itself very seriously.
If that’s the case, this show fits the bill.