"Gutenberg! The Musical!," spoofing a pair of talentless Broadway wannabes, plays in Seattle through Sept. 27 in a Strawberry Theatre Workshop production.
When actors give their all, as MJ Sieber and Troy Fischnaller do in Strawberry Theatre Workshop’s rendition of the musical-within-a-musical spoof “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” you wish them well.
But while Fischnaller and (especially) Sieber pour enough manic energy into this self-consciously zany piece to power a printing plant, they play utter dolts. And sometimes idiocy is just idiotic.
In “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” co-authored and composed by Scott Brown and Anthony King, two novice writer-composers, Bud (Sieber) and Doug (Fischnaller) hold a backer’s audition to try to drum up the dough to produce their terrible musical.
An absurdly improbable spin on how Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century, their show has about as much chance of reaching Broadway as either character has of winning an Olympic triathlon.
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No matter. The point here is a familiar one: to mock the ardent delusions of talentless showbiz wannabes.
For lack of money (or brain cells), Bud and Doug perform their entire show for us, while cheerily deconstructing modern Broadway fare and revealing themselves as losers at life and love.
Summation: Bud is an anxious and virginal nerd; Doug is sunnier and gay. Both are clueless.
“Gutenberg!” ran Off Broadway, thrived in Chicago and will likely pop up in other cities. Think of it as a low-budget actors’ showcase, and a second cousin of the far superior “Waiting for Guffman” movie, or the Empty Space Theatre show “Wuthering! Heights! The! Musical!” — but with German accents and sports caps.
The caps, bearing the names of all the roles in their Gutenberg tuner (including “Old Black Narrator,” “Drunk Number Two”), help Sieber and Fischnaller quick-change through dozens of characters, under the busy direction of Greg Carter.
Funny device? At first.
So are some other repeated gags, as the guys enact their made-up history of how Gutenberg’s invention came to be, thanks to and in spite of a meanie monk, a love interest named Helvetica, a bigoted little girl, a dead baby …
Yes, the show does go there. The cheap laughs here are really, really cheap.
It isn’t bad taste (which can be hilarious) that makes “Gutenberg!” go flat. It’s having a skit’s worth of zingers rattling around in a two-act container.
Fischnaller and Sieber work even harder to keep us amused than Bud and Doug, too, with all that dashing about, pleading for cash and singing show tunes that take off on various Broadway musicals.
Also on hand is the truly amusing pianist-actor Don Darryl Rivera, who simmers throughout with deadpan disdain. He is, by far, the show’s funniest recurring joke.
Misha Berson: email@example.com