by Dick Kerekes
Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre opened its 36th season with the Southern Premier of Gutenberg! The Musical!, written by Scott and Brown and Anthony King. This new musical was originally produced in 2006 in London. It was produced Off-Broadway in 2007 after an American Premiere at the 2006 New York Musical Brigade Theatre. This show will run through September 28th.
If you have ever wanted to write a musical, well specifically a successful Broadway musical, then this new musical is for you. This show has two actors, Doug (Kirt Bateman) and Bud (Jay Perry) who portray partners who want to showcase their new musical about Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. Picture the play Greater Tuna without costumes and with even less of a plot and you have Gutenberg! The Musical!.
The audience (us) supposedly has some Broadway backers and investor’s that two wannabes intend to impress. They readily admit that the background information on Mr. Gutenberg is slim to none, after all he had not invented printing yet, so there is nothing to read to give them the facts so they tell us this is historical fiction. Yes, it is fiction ….that is true!
Doug and Bud play all the characters and sing all the songs accompanied by Brian Hargrove on the keyboard. They perform on an open stage, except for a table about 20 feet long full of baseball hats with names on the front identifying who they are when the hat is on. There are about 30 characters, male and female, so the hats move on and off at a rapid pace, as voices change pitch and stage action evolves. Since Gutenberg was German somehow they work in the theme of the Holocaust on a couple occasions. Mainly it is Gutenberg with his curvaceous blond assistant, Helvetica.(you really have to use your imagination on that one since , the hat does not do much for you). Besides the assorted townspeople, the most significant reoccurring character is the evil Monk, who wants to destroy the printing press since knowledge would be damaging to his control of the people.
Unless you already know the fact that Gutenberg did invent the printing press, you will be held in suspense as Gutenberg considers how to convert his grape press machine into a printing press!!!. You will learn the difference between a wine press and a print press. “One makes you drink, one makes you think!”
Well, you I guess you get the idea, and of course none of it is true, but it is a lot of fun. The songs are mostly half bad but I can see the potential in three of the numbers. “Biscuits”, “Haunted German Woods song” and “We Eat Dreams” which would please an audience with an alcohol level three times over the limit. You had better warm up your voice before seeing this show, as you will be asked to sing along to “We Eat Dreams”. Your line in response, in case you want to practice before you go is “We eat them too.”
All this madness takes 42 minutes for the first act and 37 minutes for the 2nd and an l5 minute intermission this comes out to an hour and a half investment in a musical that will not change your life but might change your thinking. Well, if not so much you will be entertained by these two very talented performers who traveled all the way from Utah to do this show and to enjoy hearing about hurricanes. The Hippodrome’s Lauren Caldwell directed. Sound technician Risa J. Baxter miked the two performers so that we would not miss a single word of the charming lyrics. Now all I want to know is where can I get a hat that says “crazy critic”?
This Hippodrome is as close as you can get to Off Broadway Theatre in North Florida and it is short drive to Gainesville. I prefer the matinees either at 5 PM on Saturday or 2 Pm on Sunday. The Hipp has an interesting season that includes The Woman in Black on Oct l7-Nov 9, tick…tick…Boom on Jan 9-Feb l, Eurydice Feb 27 -Mar 22 and Shipwrecked Apr l7 to May 10. Next summer they are bringing back the most successful and biggest money making musical in the history of the Hippodrome, The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Call (352) 375 or visit www.thehipp.org.
Gutenberg! The Musical!
by Dick Kerekes