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MORE ON 'Nerds:// A Musical Software Satire'

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Songs

Published: September 24, 2005

Sometimes a scene leaps out of a show and all but announces, This is the reason the whole thing was created. "The Producers" has "Springtime for Hitler." "Glengarry Glen Ross" has Roma's Chinese-restaurant aria.

In the daffy, not-quite-ready-for-primetime new musical "Nerds" at the Beckett Theater, the coup de grāce comes when the humorless stiff Bill Gates (Sean Dugan) trades his pocket-protected Oxford shirt for leopard-print fur and a load of bling to lead a gangsta-rap number hawking his ubiquitous new operating system: "Windows/ Now you heard about it/ Gonna run your computer without it? I doubt it."

The rest of this "musical software satire," with book and lyrics by Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner and music by Hal Goldberg, succeeds best with similarly broad strokes. There's sketch-comedy chutzpah in portraying the I.B.M. chief Thomas J. Watson Jr. (William Selby) as an eye-patched robber baron with a cadre of black-coated heavies (in fact, Mr. Watson had relinquished the helm of "Big Blue" by the time the real Mr. Gates came peddling DOS). And in Microsoft's climactic Supreme Court reckoning, Gates makes his payback against his adolescent tormentors literal by pulling off the pants of nearly everyone onstage.

This last bit sums up the show's through line: that Gates, whom Mr. Dugan gives an Opie-like innocence, built a world-crushing monopoly as his one-man revenge of the nerd. Meanwhile, his opposite number, the drug-addled ex-hippie Steve Jobs (Anthony Holds), bills his Apple computer as the epitome of democratizing cool. That line doesn't hurt with the ladies, either, as Jobs beds an idealistic Xerox programmer (the priceless Jessica-Snow Wilson) and nabs a mouse in the bargain.

"Nerds," part of the New York Musical Theater Festival, is noticeably a work in progress, though, with as many dud jokes as inspired moments. Mr. Goldberg's score lovingly invokes vintage sounds, but the lyrics are a mixed bag of semi-ironic sincerity and computer puns. In that spirit, consider this "Nerds" a promising if buggy Version 1.0 and look forward to the upgrade.

"Nerds" runs tonight and tomorrow night at 8, Wednesday at 1 p.m., Thursday at 4:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and next Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Beckett Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, Clinton; (212) 352-3101.

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