Review: Gutenberg! combines (mostly) historical fiction and adsurdism in witty two-man spoof

Gutenberg! The Musical! is a musical reading with “no set, no costumes, only a few props, and no cast”. Featuring Erik Gow and Chris Adams as they switch between more than 30 characters, this two-man spoof is a historically-inaccurate epic musical about printing press inventor, Johann Gutenberg. Bud and Dug enthusiastically pitch their show to a room full of famous Broadway producers, with hopes of getting it to the big stage.

After seeing their preview performance at Broadway Bistro in July, I was excited to see Gutenberg! the Musical! at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Still not entirely sure what to expect, I walked into Carousel Theatre’s large studio, only to be greeted by the two main characters already trying to pitch their show. The show gets off to a wonderful start in a room full of energy and a crowd that is eager to laugh at the jokes that keep rolling out.

Lyndsey Britten’s choreography is impressive for such a small stage. Playing with the audience and using every inch of the small stage, energy is always high as both performers move fluidly, varying their choreography to make whichever character they are at any moment. Compliments to Britten for not letting the dance fall by the wayside with so many other things to coordinate.

The play itself, written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, had a delightful premise. It was much more interesting to have each actor develop their character “pitching” the show, rather than to see the actors play themselves. However, the “scenes” between scenes tended to drag on for a little bit longer than necessary. Perhaps it was part of the humour, but in a 90 minute Fringe show, some of the moments could have been tightened.

Adams and Gow both keep a high energy throughout the musical, despite a little bit of fumbling throughout. Both performers have excellent control both physically and vocally and keep up well with the fast-paced show. Gow, in particular, was confident even as lines were flubbed and props knocked aside, playing it up to be a part of his character. Both actors put their all into the show and it is evident in the final product.

Gutenberg! The Musical! plays through the rest of Fringe festival until September 17th. You can also catch both performers in Broadway Bistro later this month. Chris Adams also directs 13, presented by Bring On Tomorrow Co. September 28 – October 8 at the Waterfront Theatre.

Tickets: $14 | Location: Carousel Theatre for Young People | Website

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