Off-Broadway Review: “Numbers Nerds” at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater

Off-Broadway Review: “Numbers Nerds” at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Closed Sunday July 23, 2017)
Book by Laura Stratford
Music by David Kornfeld
Lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser
Directed and Choreographed by Amber Mak
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

One of the welcomed distinctions about the new musical “Number Nerds” is that its creation was prompted in response to the need for more female roles available for the high school, college, and community theater circuit. In that respect, it successfully targets that audience with lighthearted comedy, energetic music and a book that promotes good moral values. It is a small cast show which might not meet the needs of the fore mentioned institutions, but the creators have already tested a large cast version with favorable results.

No need to delve into the storyline more than to say it deals with a four-girl competitive math team that ostracizes their team leader for missing a question in competition. When soliciting a replacement, their best prospect is a male student who is new to the school since it has just turned coed from being an all- girl Catholic high school. As the story progresses the team leader is accepted back into the fold after somewhat overcoming her stage fright, with a little help from the former drama teacher now demoted to custodian. Of course, it is a feel good, happy ending that acknowledges adolescent life lessons that help relieve angst and anger.

The competent cast provides a quirky array of characters that deliver an entertaining ninety minutes of comedy and with good vocals. Danielle Davila gives Mary Kate a parochial innocent exterior with an undercurrent of bubbling pubescence. The unicorn reverie of Barbie is captured perfectly by the fanciful behavior of Madison Kauffman concealing her loneliness. Persistent team leader Melissa is portrayed with sincere aspirations and reticent vulnerability by Maisie Rose. The popular snob Amber is defined with controlling adolescent viciousness and underlying insecurity by Tiffany Tatreau. Ms. McGery is given a wholesome, motherly interpretation by Sharon Sachs. It is Jake Morrissy who shines in his depiction of the home-schooled nerd Leroy, with his comedic timing, peculiar movements, awkward behavior and fine vocals.

The book by Laura Stratford is steady but predictable. David Kornfeld’s music is sufficient and lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser serve the characters and moves the plot forward. Director Amber Mak provides her cast with an energetic pace.

What plagues this production is the overabundance of female vocals. It becomes tiring and sometimes strident. When the male vocal is finally introduced it is more than welcomed adding dimension and diversity to the musical numbers. Also, the temptation to fall into a caricature is somewhat unavoidable, it happens more often than expected. The book can use a bit more tightening especially addressing the one liners that seem to fall flat. Even with these few obstacles, “Numbers Nerds” succeeds in being a very good product for the creator’s target audience and should have a long life in those outlets.