Play:    Gutenberg! The Musical!

Group:    Temporary Theatre

Venue:    Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan Avenue

Dates:    Through March 28

Tickets:    $20 ($10 on Tuesdays); call 314-631-8330 or 314-534-1111

Story:    Our intrepid heroes, Bud and Doug, have come up with an inspired idea for a big, bold and brash new musical:  The life of Johannes Gutenberg, German inventor of the printing press in the mid-15th century.  At the backers’ audition for their show, they don’t have the luxury of singers, dancers, costumes and fancy sets, but they do have unbridled enthusiasm and a sincere belief that their idea can be The Next Big Thing on the Great White Way.  That combination, along with a bountiful supply of caps with the names of various characters imprinted on their bills, provides Doug and Bud with all they need for their excellent adventure into musical merriment and the bonus of a big contract from any wildly impressed Broadway producer.

Highlights:    Scott Brown and Anthony King, like Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen from {title of show}, wrote their pared-to-the-bone musical for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, but there are difference as well as those similarities.  While {title of show} has numerous hilarious moments, it is much too self-congratulatory and caught up in its own cuteness.  Gutenberg!, in contrast, features two generally self-effacing lads whose ‘aw, shucks’ demeanor is friendlier and more accessible.

This premier production of the fledgling Temporary Theatre also features two winning portrayals of the intrepid Doug and Bud by local stalwarts Steve Isom and Ben Nordstrom, the latter of whom just completed a highly successful, and extended, run of [title of show} at The Rep.

Other Info:    The play, or rather, the musical’s the thing in this minimalist exercise in charm and ingenuity, with talented pianist Henry Palkes as accompanist Charles at the back of stage left and a table of caps for the performers at the rear of the performing area, courtesy of set consultant Bryan Schulte.  In the play within the musical, Isom and Nordstrom engagingly and infectiously essay numerous roles as Gutenberg attempts to turn a winery press into a printing press of movable type, aided by a lovelorn lass named Helvetica and challenged by an insidious monk intent on keeping life just the way it is.

    Under the measured guidance of director Bobby Miller, the dynamic duo take turns assuming different roles with the quick and sometimes-not-so-accurate addition of a nameplate fedora and some rudimentary props such as golden locks for love interest Helvetica in this breezily paced presentation.  The songs are quick and easy, enjoyable in the moment if quickly forgettable, and delivered in upbeat, highly enterntaining fashion by the pair, greatly aided by Ellen Isom’s engaging and mirthful choreography that keeps the ‘fun’ barometer on ‘high.’

    Thommy Crain provides the amusing costumes, from the unflashy wardrobe of the Broadway wannabes to the laughably schlocky togs of the characters in the ‘drama,’ while Glenn Dunn’s lighting provides suitably melodramatic effects interspersed with the lads’ earnest explanations of what-happens-next-in-a-musical.

    As sweet and tasty as cotton candy, if also similarly filled with intellectually empty calories, Gutenberg! The Musical! is an amusing evening notable for the madcap energy and ingratiating style of its two performers.

Rating:    A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.