With Apple hedging new gadgets every day and the internet becoming more and more accessible, technology is a prevalent and influential part of the average person’s life. Through a fever of one-off songs, “Megabytes! The Musical,” written and directed by Morris Bobrow, tackles the universal topic of struggles with technology through the lens of adults with greater life experience, but less technological savvy. Though the numbers offer familiar laughs with catchy songs and cute lyrics, the production as a whole is isolated in its appeal to a specific, older audience.
The various numbers move from regrets about breaking up with Mark Zuckerberg to hold music to the pains of thinking of a password. While some of the less memorable numbers evoke light giggles or awkward smiles, others are witty performances that, while ultimately forgettable, leave the audience genuinely laughing.
The opening number “Down,” performed by the whole cast, is one that almost anyone can connect with. Underneath the theatrics and pitchy melodies, the song is an honest observation about the culture of smartphone worship. The purpose of the number is to critique the way people spend their days looking at their phones rather than experiencing the present.
“A Mother’s Lament,” performed by Deborah Russo, is an eccentric and amusing tale of a mother who only hears from her collegiate son when he accidentally butt-dials her. The rest of the cast sits behind her, donning aviators and accenting her complaints with a harmonized cry of “Butt call!” in the background. While gimmicky, the number is endearing and Deborah’s impassioned lamenting makes it enjoyable to watch.
One of the most successful numbers of the evening was “Awkward Moments,” in which the whole cast sings about the different instances in which phones are used to ignore uncomfortable conversations. This is a number with which everyone in the audience, regardless of age, could connect — causing the number to be the most effective and funny of the night.
Yet on the other hand, “The Write Stuff,” performed by David Goodwin, is a ballad about a cursive handwriting teacher out of a job because students no longer write on paper. The number is clearly meant to be dramatized, as the issue isn’t based in reality. First, there is no teacher specifically hired to teach cursive. Second, kids still write, and they still have to learn cursive whether they like it or not.
If meant as a warning, it’s hard to believe “The Write Stuff” predicts the future ahead because its reality is completely fabricated. Because numbers such as “The Write Stuff” and “Facing It” — in which the writer of the song clearly misunderstands how Photoshop works — are completely unrealistic, they become ridiculous rebuttals against nonexistent scenarios, losing the affability of the play’s charm.
“Megabytes!” has a clear target audience — adults over the age of 40. For anyone else, the problems addressed in each number seem distant and outdated. Technology is always at the forefront of our lives, but “Megabytes!” falls short by commenting on the realities of the early 2000s rather than addressing the plethora of technological problems of the present. The props alone — a ‘90s PC laptop and phones that still have buttons — showed how behind the musical truly was.
The musical missed its shot at real relevance through solely exhibiting songs about superficial and outdated internet issues rather than probing the myriad of real problems circling the topic — like the repeal of net neutrality, cyberbullying and insecurity perpetuated by social media. The musical by no means needed to tackle every serious struggle out there, but including a few crucial, modern cyber issues in lieu of some of the forced, old numbers would have helped the production stand out.
“Megabytes! the Musical” does its best to be relatable and fun for the audience in attendance. Though some of the numbers are quirky and pleasant, the musical as a whole only appeals to a small audience of older technology users — calling into question its tagline, “You’ll relate.”
“Megabytes! The Musical” will play through March 3 at the Shelton Theater.
Contact Maisy Menzies at [email protected].