2005_09_arts_nymf.JPGThe New York Musical Theatre Festival is waltzing into its second week without flagging – there are at least as many intriguing offerings now as when we wrote last week. But first, take note that the festival has clearly learned from the Fringe’s example, at least in some ways, including the idea of scheduling events that aren’t simply staged musicals. For the last week, for example, there were screenings of movie musicals; starting Thursday you can see compilations of classic TV musicals. There are also reading-only events, singing-only events, and various panels and seminars – the full listing is in the program PDF. Or perhaps you do want to see a real show, but not one that’s pulling out all the stops in an effort to land financing for a more permanent run. The NYMF folks don’t seem to be the kind to view that as heresy, nor to take umbrage at having fun poked at them – at least, if they were, they probably wouldn’t have partnered with Dixon Place for the Warning: Not For Broadway series, or taken the improv group The Pearl Brunswick into their fold of performances. The Not for Broadway shows start Thursday at the Marquee; some cleave faithfully to the idea in the series’ title (can you imagine Olsen Terror, which is about an insomniac who realizes he’s turning into…um…the Olsen Twins…on Broadway? Not that it wouldn’t be sweet to see) while at least a couple others really could go big-time (we can’t wait to see how Gary Plotkin has adapted Roald Dahl’s wonderful children’s novel The BFG). Other shows fall in between, such as Tuesday, Brett Macias and Caroline Murphy’s musical about a day in the lives of 7 high school sophomores, and Janine McGuire and Emily Paul’s Wake Her Up, which brings some of the Greek gods into the 21st century club scene (hardly a stretch of the imagination, really).

Meanwhile, The Pearl Brunswick is an all-female troupe that does musical improv, and their full-length but spontaneous show centers on four “ageless starlettes” who stage their new musical in whatever location the audience suggests. Though the setup might sound a little meta, with women performing as women performing, the group promises plenty of silliness and dance numbers (and probably at least a few silly dance numbers). (more info on all shows at the end of the entry)

2005_09_arts_nerds.jpgIn case you were so caught up in going to musicals last week that you weren’t able to plan ahead, we have a couple of recommendations for shows that are just now opening in the festival. We couldn’t possibly neglect to mention Nerds://A Musical Software Satire, which is, loosely anyway, about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs’ road to fame and fortune. We have to admit, the thought of seeing the geek kings of Microsoft and Apple sing and dance is almost as perversely appealing to us as the prospect of a show about grown man morphing into Mary-Kate Olsen. At least we can take comfort in the fact that we’re not alone – from the attention the show has been getting on Microsoft and Mac blogs and other techie sites, it sounds like the show might just drag some programmers away from their computers for a couple hours.

Also, not to downplay the hardships Gates and Jobs must have faced as nerds early on, there’s a show that’s somewhat more likely to tug at your heartstrings: Orphan Train, based on events from the 1870s, when the founder of the Children’s Aid Society decided the best way to help NYC’s troubled orphan population was to send them to families out west. The show, which has a promising pedigree including music by Doug Katsaros (Altar Boyz), follows one such group of orphans through their experience.

Clearly the NYMF has quite the variety of productions going on, with something for just about every taste – except, of course, for people who don’t like musicals. If you fall into that group, there are plenty of other options around the city, and we recommend you check out The Wooster Group’s new piece Poor Theater, directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, which pays homage to 3 leading men of avant-garde art last century – Jerzy Grotowski, William Forsythe, and Max Ernst. That means the incorporation of Grotowski’s Akropolis – in Polish – but the troupe’s past works, such as House/Lights, while also challenging, have shown them to be talented enough that even if you don’t speak the language you’re likely to be enthralled anyway.

Details: Olsen Terror is on Sun. at 8:30pm; The BFG is on Sat. at 4pm; Tuesday is on Fri. at 7pm; and Wake Her Up is on Sunday at 7pm, all at the Marquee, 356 Bowery. The full Warning: Not for Broadway schedule is here.

The Pearl Brunswick performs Thursday and Saturday at 11pm at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 307 W. 26th St. Tickets via Theatermania.

Nerds://A Musical Software Satire is playing at the Beckett Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St.; it starts today at 8pm, and also shows Thurs. and Sat. at 8pm. Full schedule and tickets at Theatermania.

Orphan Train opens Thurs. at 8pm and also shows Sat. at 1pm. It’s at Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 W. 46th St. Full schedule and tickets at Theatermania.

Poor Theater is in previews and opens Friday. Shows are Tues.-Sun. 8pm at the Performing Garage, 33 Wooster St. Tickets via Smarttix.

Photo of Nerds:// by Ben Strothmann (Broadwayworld.com)