Is there humor in the history of the personal computer? Can the lives of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates elicit gales of laughter? Yes, if you are the witty creative team for “Nerds,” a musical comedy being staged by N.C. Theatre. Billed as a pre-Broadway tryout, this highly professional production is a breezy satire that should entertain most anyone familiar with computers.
The show’s premise is that so-called “nerds” are often bullied and ostracized but can end up accomplishing great things. Composer Hal Goldberg and script and lyrics writers Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner use Jobs and Gates as examples, following them from geeks to tech giants.
But the show is not factually biographical and the bullying premise is only lightly explored. The creators are mostly interested in how many punch lines and puns they can pack into a two-hour parody, achieved with great success. The more audience members know about the development of computers, the more they’ll laugh out loud but there are enough current tech references to give even the most recent computer users reason to guffaw.
The first act is more linear and realistic within the satirical context, but the second act branches out into less satisfying fantasy and broad comedy. There’s also an unnecessary epilogue explaining the obvious, but overall, the show’s a winner.
Lee Savage’s stage-filling circuit board backdrop is greatly enhanced with Jason Lyons’ dazzling lighting and Zachary Borovay’s clever projections. Director Marc Bruni keeps the pace tight and the dialog snappy, while choreographer Denis Jones gives each song engaging energy, mirthfully sending up rock, gospel, rap and Las Vegas-style production numbers.
The nine cast members are equally talented, most playing multiple roles requiring dizzyingly quick changes. Darren Ritchie projects appropriate charisma and cunning as Jobs, balanced by Stanley Bahorek’s introverted, obsessed Gates. Diana DeGarmo gives Sally, Jobs’ love interest, bouncy assurance, contrasted with Leslie Kritzer’s hilariously awkward Myrtle, constantly pursuing Gates. All have strong, attractive voices that easily nail each number.
The show’s PG rating (for adult language and sexual situations) and tech-based humor may limit audiences somewhat, but with over 500 technology companies in the Triangle, there should be little trouble filling seats for this run.