For some theatergoers, a truly awful musical, filled with miserable performances, is one of the most gratifying experiences imaginable. Scott Brown and Anthony King seem to know this and in Gutenberg! The Musical! they, with cast members Christopher Fitzgerald and Jeremy Shamos, deliver a hilarious and immensely satisfying jolt of musical-theater schadenfreude.
Fitzgerald and Shamos play Bud and Doug, two incontrovertibly geeky guys performing, for potential backers, their bio-musical about the printing press inventor. Much like The Producers‘ Max and Leo, who wonder where they went wrong when their “bomb” musical becomes a hit, each of Bud and Doug’s wrong turns become delicious comic successes. From the name of Gutenberg’s love interest (Helvetica) to the musical styles they employ in all the wrong places— medieval German villagers performing a hip-hop number—everything in Gutenberg! is so misguided one can’t help but laugh. Fitzgerald and Shamos give tireless and endearing performances as they literally wear many hats (baseball caps emblazoned with character names) to bring Bud and Doug’s 30 characters—from a Southern-fried villainous monk to a Bruce Willis–esque Gutenberg— to life. Director Alex Timbers embellishes the script, often with inspired use of the hats, to enhance the gleeful misfire that is Gutenberg!