Review: Gutenberg! The Musical!

Gutenberg! The Musical! by Anthony King and Scott Brown
Presented by Theatremakers
Directed by Siobhan Batt and Anthony De Marco, Starring Anthony De Marco and Louis Peake.
Music Direction by Jye Burton, produced by James Gauci
Shows @ 8:30pm May 18-20 & 7pm May 17
New Globe Theatre, 220 Brunswick St Fortitude Valley


Review by Josh Lyons

Tonight the New Globe theatre is hosting something new. It’s a reading for a musical set in 1450, by Bud and Doug, about Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Along with an army of hats, they come together to pitch us their show. Getting lost along the way, well, that’s all part of the fun!

The New Globe Theatre’s remarkable performance space is the perfect home for Gutenberg! The Musical. It’s a curious and quirky theatre space, and the simplistic set up of the musical is right at home amongst the cinema reminiscence of the building. The show begins when Doug (Peake) and Bud (De Marco) arrive to tell us what they’re doing, which is a reading of the musical they wrote together (well, Doug did the story, Bud did the music, and they both did the lyrics). But because it’s only a reading, all necessary parts will be played by the two of them, wearing different hats. The physical comedy ensues, and we start to delve into the story of Johann Gutenberg, his possibly fictional wine wench Helvetica and his equally unhistoric archenemy, Monk. After interval things start to take a departure from the source material, and true artistic license is employed on the tale to great amusement.

Let me start by saying I love this musical. I hadn’t even heard of it before I saw this production, but every aspect of it shone with all the magnificence of a modern classic. It was smart, funny, unique and excellently executed. You’re probably not going to get another chance to see this excellent musical in Brisbane, so take the opportunity while it lasts. The text alone is more than enough to make this production extraordinary, and the quality of the show doesn’t stop there. Peake and De Marco are both great performers, however Peake in particular stole the show on more than one occasion. Both of their effortless transitions between the multiple characters they played were flawless, but Peake just managed to use his body to transform with an ease and confidence that is hard to come by. Commendations to them both for tackling this difficult project with such gusto.

The only negative that is worth mentioning is that, despite being an extremely funny show, there are a few times when the good-natured humour is taken too far, visibly making audiences uncomfortable. While an argument can certainly be made that to reduce the level to which the show is offensive is censorship of the arts, I think my concern is more that the most offensive jokes of the show were usually far from the funniest. Obviously, we also have to consider the fact that this musical was not written by these artists, so they kind of have to take the good with the bad. This leaves us with humour that is sometimes jarring, in a show that is mostly pure gold.

I would highly recommend musical theatre fans making the journey to the New Globe to see Gutenberg! It’s fun, funny and extremely well executed.

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