2007: A (Cyber) Space Odyssey?

Hal Goldberg doesn't do Windows: "I was a P.C. person, but I came to my senses and came over to MAC."

These days, when he buys hardware, he's bi-computer.

Why? It's only fair since the new apple of his eye is a P.C. musical that is not necessarily … P.C.

Not if you're a nerd, anyway.

As the composer of "Nerds:// A Musical Software Satire," logging on to the Philadelphia Theatre Company for a month's run at Plays & Players Theater — it is also part of the Philadelphia New Play Festival — Goldberg insists that this show will appeal not only to the inner nerd "but to the outer nerd."

Well … it's out there. "Nerds" keys in on icons — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs — whose jobs it has been to make the world computer compatible.

A merry musical about pod people? Sure, iPod, youPod, we're all pod people these days, not to mention cell mates.

Nerds as ne'er do wells? These nerds do very well.

And Goldberg is no exception.

"I'm a theater nerd!" he announces proudly.

He gets his chance to sign on. Manager of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York, he's taking a long day's journey into the night music that is composing. He likes what he sees –book and lyrics are by Jordan Allen-Dutton, with direction by Phillip Wm. McKinley — and likes what he hears. "For a theater nerd, musicals are where it's at."

He's arrived by way of the bimah. A yeshiva bucher for 10 years, Goldberg was a child actor whose father pushed him toward the pushka, hoping he would give back to his legacy by becoming a cantor. "The best part was all the music," says Goldberg of the Hebrew songs that sang to him at yeshiva.

But the road to dei-dei-yenu died off and detoured to theater. "I was far more interested" in the songs themselves than ministering the music. After all, he says, "Jewish music is the best."

Theater got the best of him at New York University, where Goldberg, Class Act of '99, majored in drama with a specialty in musical theater and a minor in music. Yet the star of his school's production of "Pippin" had magic to do, and he found it on his own.

Despite the poet Dylan's admonition, he chooses to go software into the night. The story of Gates and Jobs — and their journey through cyberspace — is My Space-ready, a cybermusical that is sigh-worthy and "runs the gamut" musically, including, says Goldberg, rap and gospel.

But theater — musical theater — is Goldberg's gospel. CD or not CD? Never a question.

"I used all my money working at Sam Goody's to buy musical theater CDs," he says of his younger days.

Musical theater can be a train wreck, so it seems somewhat ingenuous for him to admit that "I don't have much background in training as a musician."

Not that he hasn't composed before: "I wrote the worst musical in high school," he says of the "Good Bi Boy" — "my 'coming out' musical."

But it was goodbye to bad music as the boy evolved into an accomplished artist to the point where he's facing the music of a premiere at one of this city's premier theaters.

Despite the spoof, no need, he says, for the real Jobs to consider the musical a MAC the knife in the back. And Gates?

"They have no reason to be concerned," says an upbeat Goldberg, no cyber cipher himself.

But will "Nerds" play Seattle if it needles them? Who knows, but maybe it will play YouTube.

"We need to see what we can do on the Internet," muses Goldberg, who's on a first-name basis with the computer "hero" of "2001: A Space Odyssey."

This odyssey is odds-on more comical. And should the computer kings connect with "Nerds," what is the first e-mail the twenty-something would like to get from Gates and Jobs?

"I'd love them to e-mail me: 'Loved the show. When can I get a copy of the CD?' " replies Goldberg, LOL. 



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