I rarely go to plays or musicals in the theater. I used to go sometimes, but I did not often enjoy the ones I saw. Last night some friends persuaded me to join them in seeing Nerds://A Musical Software Satire at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and I loved it!

I was riveted for the entire show. It moved along at a bounding pace, with a cast that put their whole hearts into the fun and spirit of the show. I’m not a theater critic, I don’t know enough about theater. But I can recognize a fabulously good time. And watching Nerds was a fabulously good time. The whole audience felt the same, based on the laughter and enthusiastic clapping throughout the whole show. The energy and talent of the entire cast carried us all along.

The playbill described the musical as:

Nerds is an outrageous musical take on the parallel stories of computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they blaze from ‘garage inventors’ to warring titans of the computer revolution.

It isn’t a history of the actual people, Gates and Jobs, and a few others, it is not a documentary. It is a cultural impression of the beginnings of the personal computer, until its all encompassing role in our lives now. Gates and Jobs are cultural icons, and nerdy kids we may all once have been. The writers have done a terrific job of incorporating cultural institutions and pop culture references such as Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, IBM, and many others, that most people in the US, and many around the world will recognize. Nerds uses the rivalry between the characters Gates and Jobs, Microsoft and Apple, to drive the storyline. And the writers put the story together with some smash musical numbers in a variety of pop music styles that all work together and compliment each other, and the story. We laughed at jokes in the music, at the clever writing, visual jokes, and luxuriated in the acting, singing, dancing, and visual feast.

I think Nerds would make a super movie. The show is playing through Feb. 25, but I hope there will be more chances for more people to see it. I’d like to see it again. You can hear samples of 3 of the songs here. There is a Nerds://A Musical Software Satire blog, where you can see a few more photos than the one here, and where I found these quotes:

“Nerds, a new musical about the digital age, is an unrelenting hoot, and it sucks you in like a high-speed download . . .
The [show is] directed by Philip Wm. McKinley . . . who clearly has encouraged the cast to wring every drop of fun from this twisted history of computers, and of the two prime movers who made them a force that redefined everyday life…The entire cast plumbs the show for all it’s worth, the sort of hard drive you’ll never find inside that little tower at your desk.”
– Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Fantastic, new musical…the detailed greatness of prop, costume, and scenery, let alone actor, song, and story, would be enough to truly delight…Nerds is a delightful show with a whole lot for the eye to take in. Real life nerds will love it, but so will everybody else.” – Caren Beilin, Philly Theatre Review