Reasons to see 'Gutenberg! The Musical!' on Broadway

Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, reuniting on stage for the first time since leading the original Book of Mormon cast, play hapless writers in this comedy.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

It's always bittersweet to see people living your dreams. Like getting access to a Broadway venue — audience and all! — to stage your wildest idea for a show. Luckily, when fictional writing duo Bud Davenport and Doug Simon do it in Gutenberg! The Musical!, there's no room for any of the bitter — just nonstop laughter.

And honestly, how could one not delight in Andrew Rannells (Doug) and Josh Gad (Bud) sharing the stage for the first time since leading the original Book of Mormon cast in 2011? These stage-turned-screen stars only sharpened their comic chops with time, and they get to pull out all the stops as Bud and Doug, who play every character in their largely fabricated bio-musical about printing press inventor Johannes Gutenberg. Suffice it to say they wear a lot of hats (literally) in the process.

The lead actors, plus director Alex Timbers and writers Anthony Brown and Scott King, created something bursting with love for the theatre itself, plus anyone with a dream. Quirks and all.

Gutenberg! slyly references other musicals.

More than five nods happen rapidly in the first 10 minutes. As Bud and Doug introduce themselves and their show, they list all the "amazing things" people expect from Broadway musicals: animal puppets (The Lion King), turntables (Hamilton, among many other shows), flying cars (Back to the Future), flying carpets (Aladdin), "and so many people pretending to be pop stars." (Cue any jukebox musical.)

And although it's not intentional, as Gutenberg!'s 2006 world premiere preceded The Book of Mormon by five years, there are plenty of parallels to that Tony-winning show that put Rannells and Gad on the map. Both see the duo hilariously rewriting history, and both poke plenty of fun at religion.

Bonus: Bud and Doug name-drop lots of ahem, illustrious past tenants of the James Earl Jones Theatre: Captain Applejack, The Bishop Misbehaves, Nic Nax of 1926. Yes, they're all real shows, and yes, they all had very short-lived runs.

Andrew Rannells should be a Rockette.

The Rockettes are known for synchronized "eye-high kicks" that seemingly hit the mark effortlessly every time. And in Gutenberg!'s second act, during a dance break in the song "Words, Words, Words," Rannells flawlessly executes just that. It's a legitimately impressive moment in a show whose two characters are supposedly subpar artists.

Rannells gets many of the physical comedy moments, but Gad runs away with all his lines. Or should I say, glides away with them. "I have an uncle who recently started hang-gliding," Bud deadpans, explaning how he and Doug financed their Gutenberg! presentation. "And then recently stopped hang-gliding."

Celebrity sightings are guaranteed.

Gutenberg!'s whole schtick is that it's a mock presentation for Broadway producers, whom Doug and Bud hope will invest. And — minor spoiler — a producer indeed approaches them at every show. Who is that producer? You never know.

Nathan Lane played the producer (in character as his Tony-winning role from The Producers) opening night. F. Murray Abraham brought his Oscar on stage when he did it. Lin-Manuel Miranda took the guest spot one night, as did Tony-winning Book of Mormon star Nikki M. James, to name a few.

In short, it's a different stage or screen star at every performance. And of course, even if you don't recognize your night's guest, you're seeing the bonafide celebs that are Rannells and Gad — and hearing them name-drop Elton John and Timothee Chalamet. Who knows? Maybe one of them will show up one day! Like Bud and Doug, we can dream, however unrealistically.

Get tickets to Gutenberg! The Musical! on Broadway.

Unabashedly silly, packed with talent, and running through January only, Gutenberg! The Musical! is an unmissable showcase for its starring duo.

Photo credit: Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells in Gutenberg! The Musical! (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

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