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Gutenberg! The Musical!
American Stage Theatre Company

Also see Bill's review of I'm a Stranger Here Myself


Joey Panek and Matthew McGee
Currently on the boards at American Stage in St. Petersburg is Gutenberg! The Musical!, a piece of fluff about two authors auditioning the score of their new musical about the inventor of the printing press to potential producers and backers in hopes of BROADWAY! It is written by Scott Brown and Anthony King. I would guess the real reason for doing this piece is as a vehicle for local favorite clown, Matthew McGee. More than a few years ago American Stage had a big hit with a very similar piece, The Big Bang, also about authors doing an audition of their new musical, also starring Matt McGee and directed by Steven Flaa who directs Gutenberg! as well. As I recall, the songs for The Big Bang were so obviously written to be over the top that they were hilariously funny while the songs for Gutenberg! The Musical! are not quite as good, yet Gutenberg! has a cast album while The Big Bang remains undocumented.

Here, Matthew is partnered by Joey Panek, a well known media personality about town, who only has to flash his toothy smile for audiences to love him. He is a fine singer-dancer and completely holds his own. Matthew and Joey have history together dating back a decade to an all-male production of Nunsense, and the chemistry shows. Joey plays the material fairly straight and Matt is, as always, an unstoppable force of comic mayhem. He has performed in Sondheim's The Frogs but not in the leading role; I would love to see him as Dionysus, or as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The reason to see Gutenberg! The Musical! is for the wonderful performances by its cast.

Steven Flaa has a rich history with American Stage, both at the Raymond James Theater and In the Park. This production continues his fine work—everything is lively but kept from spinning out of control. Flaa makes excellent use of the multiple playing spaces in the scenic design of Jerid Fox, who is credited for costume and property design as well. The excellent music direction is by Phillip King who puts up with being forced to wear one of the blue and white baseball caps that are an integral part of the show.

Audiences looking for a couple of hours of laughs need look no further than Gutenberg! The Musical! at American Stage.

Gutenberg! The Musical! at American Stage Theatre Company, through April 5, 2015, 163 Third Street North, St. Petersburg. For more information, visit www.americanstage.org.

Cast (in order of appearance): Doug Simon: Matthew McGee*
Bud Davenport: Joey Panek*
Charles, the Pianist: Phillip King
* Member of Actor's Equity Association

Direction: Steven Flaa; Music Direction: Phillip King: Scenic, Costume and Property Design: Jerid Fox; Lighting Design: Chris Baldwin; Production Stage Manager: Steven M. Ray, Jr.*


Photo: Chad Jacobs

--William S. Oser



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