Friday, May 24, 2024

Broadway: “Gutenberg!” A-List Premiere Gets Nathan Lane as Surprise Guest for Hilariously Silly, Much Needed Musical (See Video)


Tony winning beloved Broadway star Nathan Lane sat behind yours truly for two hours last at the star studded premiere of “Gutenberg! The Musical!” We talked before the show and during intermission. He never gave away why he was really there.

Then at the end of the show, stars Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells — who spend their time on stage auditioning a fake musical about Johann Gutenberg to unseen Broadway producers — ask for a real producer to help them. Up jumped Lane onto the stage where he introduced himself as Max Bialystock — his character from “The Producers.” Lane also exclaimed, “This show is fantastic. I had the same feeling when I saw Cats!”

The audience went wild laughing and clapping, although they’d been doing that all night anyway. In the house besides Lane were Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul having a “Breaking Bad” reunion, producer director JJ Abrams, and the stars’ “Book of Mormon” Tony wining co-star Nikki M. James, plus Busy Phillips, and Jane Krakowski and David Rockwell.

With all the bad stuff going on in the world, I needed a laugh last night. Gad and Rannells are fully invested in playing these two guys who’ve put all their money into the “Gutenberg” idea. They know almost nothing about the inventor of the printing press, and confuse it with a wine press. They say they did some Googling and came up with some “historical fiction.”

The whole premise is ridiculous, of course. They duo play dozens of characters by changing an array of yellow truckers’ hats with different names on them. They’ve given Gutenberg a Gal Friday named Helvetica, named for the type font. Gad wears that hat. The songs are throwaway mostly but advance the plot although at some point they admit they have no idea how to end the show.

There are lots of Broadway send ups, and explanations of how a show works, as well as spoofing of the price of tickets. (A car is sold so they can buy their first ever Broadway tickets.) Gad and Rannells starred in the original “Book of Mormon,” have gone to other things but remained close. Their real life friendship seeps into the characters, you can see how fond they are of each other. Their characters’ determination to pull off the loony “Gutenberg!” musical is underscored by their blissfully ignorant passion.

Stay til the end! Not just for the guest actor of the night (Lane was doing a one off) but also for the most expensive plot twist maybe in Broadway history. It lasts two seconds and cost a pretty penny, but makes the show very satisfying.

“Gutenberg!” is a limited run through January.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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