Lunchbox Theatre’s Gutenberg! The Musical! a non-stop, over-the-top, cheesy romp

Writer Caroline Russell-King takes a look at the final production of Lunchbox Theatre’s 2018/19 season, Gutenberg! The Musical!

Show: Gutenberg! The Musical!

Playwright(s): Scott Brown & Anthony King with arrangements by T.O. Sterret.

Production Company/theatre space: Lunchbox Theatre.

Length: One act (70 mins., no intermission).

Genre(s): Musical-melodrama-spoof.

Premise: A playwright and a composer pitch the audience their multi-cast, fictional, musical about the life and love of Johannes Gutenberg (who as you may know invented the printing press).

Why this play? Why now?: I imagine it was programmed to be fun and inexpensive, given the cardboard props and cheap and cheesy set.

Curiosities: This year’s theatre season had quite a few “play within plays” and it’s hard not to compare it to the fuller cast productions. I wondered if it was an active choice for the characters to seem like children. As I watch these types of plays, I wonder if this reinforces the most negative stereotypes of brash, unaware, self-involved artists to the civilians in the house.

Notable lines: “That may not have happened.”

Notable writing: This play is billed as “truly terrible and inspirational in equal share,” but I’m not sure about the equal part. The characters, while stereotypic, are beguiling and irritating and I can say certainly I have met them over the years working as a dramaturg on new plays.

Notable performances: Daniel Fong playing Bud Davenport adds a layer of sweetness when appearing smitten with his co-writer Deb Simon played by Katherine Zaborsky – a note of authenticity in these otherwise stock characters.

Notable design/production: The hats that the two actors wear are all labeled and I needed my distance glasses to read them – so take yours if you wear them. The addition of braids to one of the characters is a useful differentiation and the clothesline gag is cute.

Notable direction: This is Samantha MacDonald’s swan song as this is her last show at Lunchbox Theatre. She says: “For as misguided and even sometimes bad, as their show is … you can’t help but love them.” She mentions passion four times in her program notes and her passion is evident in this non-stop, over-the-top, cheesy romp.

One reason to see this show: The climax of the play – nothing more can be said because of spoilers but on opening day this was my favourite scene.

(Photo of Daniel Fong as Bud Davenport and Katharine Zaborsky as Deb Simon in Lunchbox Theatre’s production of Gutenberg! The Musical! courtesy Benjamin Laird.)

Gutenberg! The Musical! Runs until April 20 at Lunchbox Theatre.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here