Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Kirt Bateman, front, is Doug the scriptwriter and Jay Perry is composer Bud in Plan-B Theatre Company's "Gutenberg! The Musical!"
GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL!, through Dec. 30, Plan-B Theatre Company, Rose Wagner Center (355-2787 or www.planbtheatre.org), running time: 90 minutes one intermission)

If the holiday stress is wearing you down, maybe what you need is a good laugh. Or, even better, a healthy dose of a barrel of laughs.

Plan-B's regional premiere of Scott Brown and Anthony King's "Gutenberg! The Musical!" is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

The premise is fairly simple — two bumbling collaborators have written what they're certain will be a Broadway hit. But in reality, this Mutt-and-Jeff version of Lerner and Loewe have created the world's most atrocious musical.

Nearly broke (their previous production, "Steven King, the Musical" was a huge flop), the audience is attending Doug Simon and Bud Davenport's presentation for backers. They hope someone will bankroll a full-fledged Broadway production.

Two familiar Plan-B faces, fresh off some pretty heavy dramatic works — Kirt Bateman and Jay Perry — have a field day with this piece of pure nonsense. Bateman plays Doug, who has written the script. Perry plays Bud, the composer. Both Doug and Bud take the blame for the lyrics.

What makes "Gutenberg!" work so well is that Bud and Doug are friendly, likable guys. You really want them to succeed, even though the musical they've created is truly awful — but awfully funny at the same time.

My hat's off to both Bateman and Perry. A couple of dozen hats, actually. In the context of the backer's audition, Bud and Doug play all the roles, wearing an assortment of baseball caps, each emblazoned with the name of the character (or characters) they're playing.

They've also had to throw in a considerable amount of fictional material, because their research on Gutenberg himself came up with less than half a page of Googled information.

So they pad it with as much stuff as they can.

Without seeing this, you might have never known that Gutenberg spent one night remodeling his wine press into a printing press, more or less inspired by his only grape-stomper, a German wench named Helvetica.

Bud and Doug's musical is set in the German village of Schlimmer. Probably not in any atlas, but it does rhyme nicely with glimmer.

And did you know those familiar words, "Stop the press!" began with an evil Monk (his hat is marked "Monk"), encouraging Helvetica to destroy Gutenberg's press? This Monk, who takes on the persona of a Southern televangelist preacher, wants to keep the Bible and his little religious empire to himself.

You get the drift. It's 90 minutes of message-free mayhem.

The biggest suspense is wondering how in the world Perry and Bateman are going to survive seven weeks of this madcap marathon. Their pianist, Charles (played by Jeffrey Price) accompanies the wild proceedings and also keeps a watchful eye on Satan, the Monk's cat.

Sensitivity rating: Except for one expletive (uttered in the heat of excitement), this show is in very soft PG territory.


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