From wine press to printing press: The improbable tale of Gutenberg to grace the Plan-B Theatre stage0 Comments Published by les November 1st, 2007 in Uncategorized.
Don’t expect a whiff of historical accuracy when Gutenberg! The Musical! comes to the Plan-B Theatre stage later this month. However, this madcap biographical treatment of the printing press inventor – called by Variety “as accurate as a political campaign commercial, albeit more amusing” – does have a worthy message for those in the business of creative artistry on the theatrical stage. The drive to make creative drama risks becoming absurd and utterly ridiculous for those self absorbed in their own delusions of artistic importance and serious impact. Hint: think of those big, bombastic, indulgent musicals of the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.
Nonetheless, Salt Lake City theatergoers will get a unique holiday treat as Plan-B Theatre becomes the first company to secure licensing for the production which has played to enthusiastic audiences and solid reviews off Broadway and in London’s West End. The production opens Nov. 16 and runs through Dec. 30.
The historical drama has been reduced to the bare necessities conjured up for the sake of the absurd, perfect for Johann Gutenberg whose real biographical details are quite sparse much to the frustration of serious historians. Set in medieval Schlimmer, the story features Gutenberg as a German wine presser suddenly inspired by the tragic consequences of poverty and illiteracy. With his wine press transformed into a printing press, Gutenberg now must contend with a new enemy – an insane monk who frets that a literate populace will question his interpretation of the Bible. Forget historical continuity as the monk furiously feeds classic Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils into his electric pencil sharpener. The rest, of course, is history despite Gutenberg’s unfortunate end when he is burned at the stake by unruly, illterate mobs.
The true gem of the show lies, however, in the many characters being portrayed by just two actors (Bud and Doug), who rely on swapping baseball caps with stenciled character names. The genius of minimalism abounds as the characters manage to pull off set pieces including a heroine with two rat singers, a vocal quartet, and an 11-character chorus kickline with two legs.
The show was created by Scott Brown and Anthony King at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Jerry Rapier will direct the Salt Lake City production with Kirt Bateman and Jay Perry filling the two roles, helped along by Jeffrey Price as musical director and Colleen Lewis for staging.
The show will be presented at the studio theatre in the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Ticket information is available here.
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