Gutenberg! The Musical
Review by Cicely Binford
The crew at Holland St Productions have another hit on their hands with an American musical about two guys pitching a musical about Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. It’s called Gutenberg! The Musical, of course (since musicals have to announce their own genre in the title these days), and it’s a frisky, madcap satire on the MT genre starring Tyler Jacob Jones and Andrew Baker.
Jones and Baker play Bud and Doug, who are having a reading of the show they’ve been working on, hoping to find some producers to take it to the Great White Way. They’re so eager and full of optimism, and they’ve figured out a way to present the show with just themselves, an array of caps, an accompanist, and a whole lot of gumption. And what’s a musical without gumption?
Tyler Jacob Jones would know all there is to know about making an original musical, as he’s co-authored at least three full-length musicals with his writing partner Robert Woods. The same goes for Gutenberg! director/choreographer Erin Hutchinson; she’s been involved with Holland St’s most recent successes and hosts their ‘Homestyle Cabaret’ nights in the intimate confines of her own home. Holland St embodies the very epitome of ‘gumption,’ making a habit of producing sleeper hits that take critics and judges by surprise, doing high-quality work on shoestring budgets.
Gutenberg!, though not an original Holland St opus, fits in perfectly with their canon and further solidifies the fierce talents of the team. Baker, a recent addition to the crew, has a wealth of MT experience under his belt, and his low-key delivery is an excellent counterpoint to Jones’s infectious exuberance. They play dozens of characters (or possibly caricatures) at lightning speeds, switching out hats with each character’s name on them, often playing the same character in different scenes. How they can keep everything straight in and on their heads and the prop tables behind them defies logic – I can only guess that none of them have had any sleep for about a month. Kudos to musical director Joshua James Webb for either keeping everything in time, or keeping up with Jones and Baker, I’m not sure which.
The musical within the play is as ludicrous as any of the most cliche-filled examples of the genre would be. But it’s Bud and Doug’s little journey outside of the immediate musical performance that makes the show rise above a genre parody. When they hint at their lives behind the scenes, that’s when we know that the show’s writers (Scott Brown and Anthony King) ultimately have a lot of love for the folks who make theatre, who put their hearts and souls into creating things that might never be seen by anyone other than a handful of audiences. And this is where I’m sure the Holland St team find connection with the work and are able to make it truthful.
There are only three chances left (Thu, Fri and Sat) to see this hidden gem of an off-off-Cultural Centre production down at the Hellenic Club of WA on Stirling St in Northbridge. Don’t miss it.
For tickets, visit the trybooking website here.