BWW Review: GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! Charms Audiences at A/C Theatre Company
GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! Charms Audiences at A/C Theatre Company
Since their inaugural season in 2015, A/C Theatre Company has made a name for themselves as the most exciting new producer of alternative musicals in Phoenix. Run by local artists turned entrepreneurs, A/CTC has never shied away from the road less traveled, as demonstrated with productions like "Murder Ballad," "Lizzie," and last season's highly ambitious and artistically stunning hit "Wild Party." You may have even been lucky enough to catch their "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"-- a coproduction with Phoenix Theatre. The theatrical landscape has been enriched by the ambition of this daring company, and "Gutenberg! The Musical!" is the newest and most refreshing addition to their list. With a reputation of producing dark, rock driven musicals, here A/CTC has successfully taken on a laugh out loud, adorable send up to the musical comedy lover in all of us.
A far cry from the massive production that was "Wild Party," "Gutenberg! The Musical!" sets the stage with an upright piano, a couple of boxes, and a few tables lined with baseball caps. This scaled back scene perfectly represents the minimalist premise, and reinforces the comedy behind the two person pitch. Starring local favorites Tim Shawver and Michael Thompson as Doug Simon and Bud Davenport respectively, the show starts with an immediate destruction of the 4th wall. Bud and Doug explain that they've written the next big Broadway hit, and today they're going to do a presentation in hopes of convincing a Big Time Broadway Producer to back them. Using baseball caps with character indicators written in large letters, they take on every role, sometimes multiple roles at a time, all while accompanied by Charlie, the pianist, played to dry perfection by Alicia Ferrin who doubles as the show's Musical Director.
The premise is all well and good, but what really sells the comedy is the earnestness of our two guides. The pitch: A dramatic musical about Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press through historical fiction. As they make clear, Doug wrote the book, Bud wrote the music, and they both wrote the lyrics. From the beginning, there is no doubt that these goofy creators have written possibly the worst show ever, but watching them share their "baby" is comedy gold every step of the way. Imagine the quotability of a Christopher Guest movie mixed with the humor of SNL and topped with the likability of a Jimmy Fallon monologue, and you'll be close.
"Gutenberg! The Musical!" is a fast 95 minute showcase parody peppered with bits and pieces of songs meant to represent the story of the musical, "Gutenberg! The Musical!" within the musical. It might sound meta, but it most definitely is not.
With songs like, "I Can't Read," "Biscuits," and "Tomorrow is Tonight," the show makes fun of musicals at every turn. The lyrics and setups are so on the nose, even the most stoic of audiences will burst out laughing. Co-directed by Osiris Cuen in their directorial debut and local comedy legend David Chorley, the pacing is spot on, and the humor is rightly rooted in genuine excitement and pride. What could be seen as a gimmicky premise in the vein of "[title of show]," this production never feels stale thanks to the committed, hilarious, and downright charming performances from Shawver and Thompson.
Shawver's sweetly underplayed Doug is complimented by Thompson's high energy Bud in a foolproof combination harkening back to the greatest comedy duos. You WILL fall in love with them. Though the musical within the musical is quite possibly the worst ever written, the presentation of the musical that is "Gutenberg! The Musical!" is an unexpected joy. Hats off to A/CTC for sharing it with our community. Without companies like A/C Theatre Company, local audiences would never have the opportunity to experience theatrical gems like "Gutenberg! The Musical!" As always A/CTC has delivered another hit, and I for one can't wait to see what they do next! Running until June 2nd, you can catch this special, oddball of a show at The Hardes Theatre at The Phoenix Theatre Company.
Tickets: (602) 254-2151 or tickets.phoenixtheatre.com
More information about A/C Theatre Company: https://www.actheatrecompany.org