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The Broadway Review: ‘Gutenberg! The Musical’ spoofs both its main man and its medium

Scott Brown and Anthony King’s goofy, self-flagellating musical about a musical about Johannes Gutenberg liberates itself from any real purpose for our real pleasure.

(L-R) Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in “Gutenberg! The Musical!” on Broadway (Credit: Matthew Murphy)

Good morning, and welcome to Broadway News’ Broadway Review by Brittani Samuel — our overview of reactions, recommendations and information tied to last night’s Broadway opening of “Gutenberg! The Musical!”


(L-R) Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in “Gutenberg! The Musical!” on Broadway (Credit: Matthew Murphy)

Before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and permanently altered the course of human history, he hung out with town drunks, scolded young flower girls for being anti-Semitic and experienced sexual tension with a lustful German wench named Helvetica. Or at least, he “probably” did. That vague deduction of history comes from Bud (Josh Gad) and Doug (Andrew Rannells), a luckless musical writing duo centering their next big project (their magnum hopeless, if you will) on the famed German tinker. The meta-gag is, however, that Bud and Doug are actually characters in Scott Brown and Anthony King’s real-life show, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” debuting now on Broadway. With all of this pseudo-historical absurdity, Brown and King’s dotty comedy ultimately grounds itself in the likeability of its frontmen: Gad and Rannells. Two-handers run the risk of tilting in favor of one performer over the other, but Gad and Rannells strike perfect comedic balance. The two deliver pitch-perfect utterances of the musical’s aptly amateur score and fearlessly play every physical bit and wisecrack to the audience, as director Alex Timbers demands. They are winning leading men — even as their antics on a bare-bones, brick-backed set (scenic design by Scott Pask) rarely surmount to much beyond a SNL sketch with the aftertaste of “follow your wildest dreams” inspiration. The entire show might be better suited for the late-night slot at a comedy club as opposed to Broadway. At the James Earl Jones Theatre, people (myself included) giggled throughout. At the Bell House, they’d be falling on the floor. 

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