The pair, who were the original co-stars of “The Book of Mormon,” will return to Broadway this fall in a two-man musical comedy.
Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, whose careers were transformed when they co-starred as hapless missionaries in “The Book of Mormon,” will reunite this fall in a comedic two-hander, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” that has been staged around the world but will now arrive on Broadway for the first time.
“There is no bigger passion as an actor than being on a stage,” Gad, who has been working in film and television for the last decade, said in a joint telephone interview with Rannells. “It’s how I got my start, and I’ve missed it.”
“Gutenberg” is a musical that satirizes musicals; it is about two aspiring musical theater writers who decide to write a musical about Johannes Gutenberg without knowing all that much either about him (he was a Renaissance inventor, best known for his contributions to the history of printing presses) or about musical theater. The show is set at a backers’ audition — a run-through staged for potential investors — but in this case, the artists have so little money they have to perform every role themselves.
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“‘Gutenberg’ is very much a love letter to musical theater,” Rannells said. “We’re playing these two characters who have very passionately written a show without a ton of historical information and without a lot of skill, but a lot of passion and a lot of heart and one shot to find some Broadway producers to help them put this show on.”
The musical, written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, began its life in the comedy world, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, where King was the artistic director, and then was further developed at the New York Musical Festival. It had runs in London and Off Broadway starting in 2006, and has since been produced in Australia, France, Korea, Spain, and around the U.S.; Brown and King, who have been friends since childhood, went on to write the book for the musical adaptation of “Beetlejuice.”
The Broadway run is scheduled to begin previews Sept. 15, to open Oct. 12, and to close Jan. 28 at the James Earl Jones Theater. The director will be Alex Timbers, who also directed the 2006 Off Broadway production; Timbers later won a Tony Award for directing “Moulin Rouge!,” and he has also worked in comedy, including as the director of “Oh, Hello” on Broadway.
“I love this show, and it gets seen and performed all over the world, but isn’t really known in New York,” Timbers said. “It straddles the play and comedy worlds, and I feel like there’s an audience for that.”
Timbers and Gad had been talking for some time about finding a way to collaborate; Gad said they had discussed the possibility of doing a production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” In 2020, Timbers suggested “Gutenberg,” and Gad loved the script, which he in turn shared with Rannells; the three did a first reading together in March of 2020, days before theaters were shut down for the coronavirus pandemic, and are now returning to the project.
“Broadway is rebounding, and it is due for an even bigger rebound,” Gad said. “I was watching the Tony Awards, and I was blown away by how many productions I was so excited to go see on my next trip to New York, and to be a part of that — this incredible comeback that Broadway is long overdue post-pandemic — is a really exciting opportunity. And more than anything, I think that people miss laughing.”
The lead producer of “Gutenberg” is the Ambassador Theater Group, a British company that has become increasingly active on Broadway; among the other producers is Bad Robot Live, which is a new division of a company co-founded by the filmmaker J.J. Abrams, and which has a partnership with the Ambassador Theater Group.