Holland St Productions are sure-fire winners, with a slew of awards and hit original shows on their company resume. But just to shake things up a bit, they’ve decided to produce a pre-existing work: Gutenberg! The Musical! written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, first produced in NYC in 2005. Producer Andrew Baker (who is also co-starring in the show with Holland St’s Tyler Jacob Jones) hopes to make Perth audiences LOL as much as he did when he first saw the show. He takes a moment to talk about his grand and probably very welcome plans for musical theatre in Perth.
What led you to the idea of bringing Gutenberg! The Musical to Holland Street to produce? Why this particular musical, and what made it a good fit for Holland St Productions?
I saw James Millar and David Harris do the show in Melbourne and LOL’d non-stop. Ever since then I have wanted to do it. It’s just so silly and fun and hilarious. But it’s also incredibly clever and a huge challenge to perform. I also want to produce musical theatre in Perth and Gutenberg is the ideal scale from which to start. The Holland St team is talented and experienced and is ideally placed to find a market for well-produced, niche theatre projects. So I’ve gatecrashed their party.
You wear a lot of hats in the show, not metaphorically, but literally. But you also wear a lot of hats in life, metaphorically (and perhaps literally as well, I don’t know): you’re a performer, a director, a student, a marriage celebrant and a Segway tour guide. You also used to be a lawyer. How do you keep track of all these literal and metaphorical hats? Do you have a favourite one?
Haha. I’ve given up explaining to people what I do with my life. I have been a lawyer and an actor, and now I am studying Masters of Arts Management, I marry people and I also work in arts administration. I’m basically trying to marry (my turn for bad puns) my love of theatre and people, with my business and legal skills. Yes, I have lots going on, but all of it is in support of my aim of getting theatre projects off the ground in Perth.
What are the biggest challenges in producing this show with a small, independent theatre company in Perth? Venue, rehearsal space, securing rights, spreading the word, finding enough hats?
Working with Holland St has been super. They work fast! Which is great for a show like this. It’s hard to keep up with Tyler’s phenomenal work rate in rehearsals. But the hardest part has been, and will continue to be, convincing Perth audiences to come to a musical they’ve never heard of before. So marketing is our biggest challenge. But we’ll learn a lot from this project and we’ll be able to move from strength to strength when we produce the next one. I don’t want to produce musicals that people are used to seeing; I feel that market is well served in WA through offerings at the Crown and in community theatre. So Gutenberg is going to help me work out if there’s an audience in Perth for the kind of shows I want to produce. I guess we’ll see!
What’s the most fun part about your character and characters?
I play Doug, the guy who wrote the book to the musical “Gutenberg!”. I love that Doug is so ambitious and full of optimism, but fatally naïve. It’s so much fun bringing his crazy dream to life. And the other dozen or so characters I play are so diverse (obviously) that piecing them all together has been a glorious nightmare.
The show is a spoof of making musical theatre – have there been any instances of life imitating art? Is there anything they missed, or is every MT cliche under the sun in there?
It’s all pretty much there I reckon! I really think that this show is great for people who love musical theatre, and even better for those who hate it (but, really, who could hate musical theatre?). But lovers of the art form, like us, get so much joy out of affectionately mocking the form itself as well as its stars and legends. There’s so much fan-boying in the show it’s not even funny. It’s absolutely a well-meaning, but demented, love-letter to musical theatre.
What’s your opinion of the state of musical theatre in our fair city, given that it’s the home of the WAAPA (sorrynotsorry for the Burger King pun) Do you wish there was more? Different shows? Bigger shows? Smaller shows?
This is a tough one! Firstly, we need more small to medium venues for affordable musical theatre. Anyone got a warehouse I can have? Perth definitely takes WAAPA for granted, that’s for sure. Having said that, although it is certainly the home of the best musical theatre produced in WA, I think Perth needs something more in terms of professional musical theatre. When I graduated in 2008, it was a total inevitability that you’d move east to get the real work. That still happens of course. Now that I’m home, I want to do what I can for grads to either stay or return to Perth and work on something high quality and relatively well-paying. It’s going to take time, and hopefully I’m not kidding myself, but I’m optimistic. I’ve only been back a little while, I need to see who’s here and if there is an audience for what I want to do. Who knows?!?!
What do you hope audiences will enjoy most about the show, and what will you do to alleviate their disappointment that the show has nothing to do with Steve Guttenberg?
I just want audiences to laugh. I think they’ll enjoy watching us try and meet the challenge we’ve set ourselves. But ultimately, I want them to laugh and have a good time. I know they will. The Steve Guttenberg thing is HILARIOUS! He saw the show several times in New York and was even part of the marketing (his quote on the poster is one of the best you’ll ever see). All I’ll say is “Gutenberg! The Musical” is funnier than every Police Academy movie except Number 4 (no one can top Citizens On Patrol).
To get your own LOLs from Gutenberg! The Musical!, book tickets here. To keep up with Holland St’s comings and goings visit their website here, or follow them on Facebook (and keep your eye out for ticket giveaways).