Gutenberg! The Musical!
It’s sometimes hard to know what you’re laughing at in Gutenberg! The Musical!, even though the laughs are abundant in this two-man, two-act, two-joke tuner now playing in the cabaret space of the Royal George. The two men are excellent. As naive schlubs pitching their naively conceived “historical fiction” musical about the German inventor of the printing press, Goodrich (as a gargantuan, bug-eyed, curly-topped goon) and Bliss (as a small and burly chrome-topped hound dog) offer a manically paced evening with surprises to spare as they barrel through the shtick of auditioning for Broadway backers. The two acts are a little excessive; if you frequent the improv scene, you’ve seen that Baby Wants Candy, which makes up musicals on the spot, pulls off more in less time.
It’s the two jokes that create the biggest detriment. As Goodrich and Bliss perform their addle-brained but exuberant Bad Idea musical, you’ll find yourself enjoying its high camp and adherence to classical form. On its own, this version of Gutenberg’s story would make for tasty farce. (Johannes, stuck in a 15th-century town of illiterates, vows to teach everyone to read, including his pulchritudinous female assistant, Helvetica.) Meanwhile, we’re asked to believe the “writers” they play are buffoons, too stupid to conceive anything worthwhile. The two styles of humor are in deadlocked competition with each other—it’s like two girls who show up in the same dress—and sometimes cancel each other out, which can be fatiguing to watch. At the end of the night, though, Goodrich and Bliss are the two elements you’ll remember, if pressed.