Take some Mel Brooks, toss in a little Monty Python, and add a dash of “Saturday Night Live” and you have “Gutenberg! The Musical!” which will be performed by Culver faculty members Zachary Gipson and Lou Canelli three times over the next week.
In this two-man musical spoof, a pair of aspiring playwrights perform a backers’ audition for their new project – a big, splashy musical about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. With an unending supply of enthusiasm and trucker hats, characters Bud Davenport (Canelli) and Doug Simon (Gipson) sing all 20 songs and play all 30 parts in their piece of historical fiction. Their hope is that one of the producers in attendance will give them a Broadway contract – fulfilling their ill-advised dreams.
Written by Anthony King and Scott Brown in 2005, the musical intentionally leaves 15 to 20 percent open for improvisation, Gipson, the assistant director of theatre at Culver, said. The audience will also dictate some of the improvising by its reactions. This ensures that “Gutenberg!” is new and original each time.
Gipson originally performed “Gutenberg!” with his friend Dustin Ritchea last summer at the Art Barn School of Art in nearby Valparaiso, Ind., where it ran for six sold-out performances. The Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation nominated the show for 10 awards including best musical and best directors/choreographers.
Gipson, who is the artistic director/executive producer of the Ensemble Theatre Company, which co-produced the show with Ritchea for the Art Barn, will be serving in those capacities for the three-show run at Culver. Humanities instructor Canelli, who saw the show last summer, agreed to play opposite Gipson. Sharon Burke, adjunct piano instructor, will accompany Gipson and Canelli on their 20 songs and school psychologist Joanna Mullins is the stage manager. The group has been rehearsing for the past two months.
“Gutenberg! The Musical!” opens this Friday, April 12 (sold-out), and runs on Friday, April 19 (waiting list), and closes on Saturday, April 20 (seats still available). All shows are at 7:30pm in the Roberts Auditorium of the Roberts Hall of Science. The play is geared for young adults and older. The performances are free, but due to the limited seating in Roberts, people are asked to make reservations by emailing Gipson (Zachary.Gipson@culver.org).