What happens when you put two of the Philly area’s most versatile and talented actors together on a stage? Act II Playhouse decided to find out the answer to that very question with “Gutenberg! The Musical!” The show stars Tony Braithwaite and Steve Pacek, whose names should be familiar if you follow Philly theater even a little. Braithwaite has several Barrymore awards, is the Artistic Director of the Act II Playhouse, and has appeared on stages all over the city. Pacek, although new to the Act II stage, has been making audiences laugh and applaud regularly at the Arden Theatre Company, and is the Artistic Director of 11th Hour Theatre Company. The duo is joined by Sonny Leo, who plays their expressive (and exasperated) pianist, Charlie.
But what is “Gutenberg! The Musical!”? The show was written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, and it opened Off-Broadway in 2006 and was subsequently nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical. It is essentially a show within a show. Braithwaite and Pacek play Bud and Doug – a (hopefully) Broadway-bound pair with big songs and bigger dreams. Bud and Doug very much want to impress the audience, which they are sure is just filled with big Broadway backers. In order to show the potential of their musical about Johannes Gutenberg, the pair don multiple hats (quite literally) to pull off a pitch of epic proportions. You may not be immediately familiar with the name Johannes Gutenberg, but really, neither are Bud and Doug! Don’t worry. They do their best to fill in the details. Â Their pianist, ‘Charlie’, does his best to make it through the first act without straining his eyes from all the rolling.
“Gutenberg! The Musical!” is the perfect vessel in which to show off how wonderfully talented Braithwaite and Pacek are. These two have stellar voices, impeccable comedic timing, and charm to spare. You so desperately want Bud and Doug to succeed in their musical dreams (no matter how unlikely success would seem to be). There is a genuine earnestness in these characters, and it seems to emanate effortlessly from these two seasoned actors. I just can’t imagine anyone else in these roles. Braithwaite and Pacek are a truly brilliant combination that should not be missed.
Tickets to “Gutenberg! The Musical!” can be purchased by calling Act II Playhouse’s box office at (215) 654-0200 or by visiting www.act2.org. Tickets are $27-$38, and there are discounts available for subscribers, students, seniors (65 and older) and groups of 10 or more. “Gutenberg! The Musical!” is a co-production between Act II Playhouse and Montgomery Theater in Souderton, and runs through November 4.
The Act II Playhouse is located at 56 E. Butler Ave. in Ambler, PA 19002. It is conveniently located near the Ambler SEPTA regional rail station, which means there’s no excuse for you Philly folk not coming out to see this amazing show.