iDreamed A Dream: Philly Theatre Mounts Steve Jobs The Musical

Steve Jobs holding original iPhone

Here’s an idea: take one subject like tech with a massive built-in fanbase, and another — like Broadway musicals — with a similarly rabid audience.

Put them together and what do you get? Well, the hope is obviously for a hit, but right now the specific answer is “Nerds” — a new musical from the Philadelphia Theatre Company, telling the oft-repeated story of Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs.

We haven’t seen it yet — but its write-up from Philly.com’s resident music critic suggests it might not actually be as bad as the outdated title suggests, noting that:

“With surgical precision (something like How to Succeed in Business meets Urinetown), Nerds portrays Silicon Valley’s confluence of hippie socialism and rampant capitalism, nailing such underlying themes as the cost of dreams, the emptiness of revenge, and the itch that lies behind John D. Rockefeller’s old saying that enough money is always “just a little bit more.”

Though Act II loses its nerve as it strains to achieve a pat emotional resolution, Nerds is well on its way to being one of those generation-defining shows. The ultra-tight Act I has one knockout, high-velocity musical number after another, performed by a cast that can do anything.”

The story takes audiences on the expected narrative from 1970s beginnings with its college dropout protagonists, through 1980s success and personal fall-out, to the 1990s reversal in fortunes, and ultimately up to what is pretty much the present day.

“As Jobs and Gates rise, you realize that nerds don’t do well with fame and power: Having been at the mercy of childhood bullies, their ambition comes from hollow places. Gates sits on his corporate throne, gaining moral support from his hamster. With his rock-star grandiosity, Jobs envisions his influence in the production number “Think Different” with cameos by Albert Einstein and Mother Teresa.

Matt Bradley couldn’t be better at conveying Jobs’ delusional sexiness, though his sidekick Steve Wozniak, well acted by Benny Elledge, could use a bit more stage time. Stanley Bahorek inhabits the soul of seething inhibition as Gates, while Rob Morrison as his sidekick enjoys playing both his character and the android version of it in Act II. Kevin Pariseau walks off with much of the first act, playing a maliciously charismatic IBM exec.”

The play runs though Decemeber 29 at Philadelphia’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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