Review: Comedy is howlingly good throughout

By Bob Fischbach, The Omaha World-Herald  03.28.2015

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Settle in, big Broadway producers. Bud Davenport and Doug Simon have a musical they want to pitch to you.

That’s the premise for The Candy Project’s “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” which opened Friday at the Pizza Shoppe in Benson. The audience becomes the producers. Bud and Doug are nothing if not earnest and energetic as they play all the parts in their show, literally switching hats so you know who they’re playing at all times.

Thing is, Bud and Doug have little talent for writing a musical. They mangle the history of the inventor of the movable-type printing press to hilarious effect. All the while they explain the musical-theater devices they have cleverly employed in the telling of the tale. Their plot turns and lyrics are so bad, they’re howlingly good.

Director Randall Stevens has cast two of Omaha’s favorite comedic actors, Dan Chevalier as Bud and Steve Krambeck as Doug, and the material is perfectly suited to their strongest talents. These guys can really sing, and their voices blend beautifully.

They’re also pretty decent hoofers, and the choreography punches the laugh-inducing lyrics like one of those exclamation points in the title.

But their forte is comedy: line delivery, physical humor and finely honed timing that had me doubled over all evening long. Their facial expressions are priceless.

Because the show is staged as a simple “read” for financial backers, it’s done in street clothes, with minimal props and a set that consists of little more than a couple of boxes to stand or sit on and a long table filled with those labeled hats. It’s the perfect show for the Pizza Shoppe’s tiny stage.

Bud and Doug take us back to the town of Schlimmer, Germany, in 1450. Gutenberg runs a wine press. His grape stomper, Helvetica, is in love with him.

The villain of the piece, an evil Monk, wants the Bible to “mean whatever I say it means.” When Gutenberg converts his wine press to a printing press, Monk wants Helvetica to sabotage it.

A song explains how Monk killed his daddy when he was young. “That’s called character development,” they tell us.

Helvetica’s love ballad? A standard device called an “I want” song.

Why did they throw in a number about how they love biscuits? It’s to charm you when the story gets too heavy.

And what is foreshadowing? “Well … I’ll tell ya later,” Doug promises.

The boys have plenty of fun with word play.

And the audience has just as much fun drinking in Krambeck’s and Chevalier’s version of broad, goofy comedy.

Keyboardist Sara Collins gamely plays along, and the fun lasts less than 100 minutes, including intermission. For me, it was one of the funniest shows of the season.

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