The first song of the rock musical comedy "Viva Los Bastarditos!" contains a parade of words that rhyme with "pickle." If it sounds ridiculous, that's the point.
"It's just goofiness," said actor David Bielewicz, 27, who plays Sandy, leader of the rock band Bastarditos.
"Bastarditos!," by New Jersey composer-playwright Jake Oliver, debuted at FringeNYC in summer 2010 and won the festival's Audience Favorite Award. The musical comedy is being staged by No Name Players at Off the Wall Theater in Carnegie.
Featuring a cast of 12 actors including Daina Michelle Griffith, Brad Stephenson and Hayley Nielsen, the show is set in a fictionalized version of western Massachusetts. It centers on a con to seize people's land and the three members of a band called The Pickles who live, of course, on Pickle Ranch. When evil enters this peaceful land, they dub themselves the Bastarditos, meaning approximately "little bastards," and rally the people to fight injustice using the only tools they have: music. Shenanigans and hijinks ensue.
Mr. Oliver, 40, whose family goes back generations in Massachusetts, wanted to set his story against a realistic backdrop, drawing on the history of the Quabbin Reservoir, constructed in the 1930s and now the main supplier of water for the city of Boston. He was inspired by opposition movements to the reservoir's construction, which forced residents in affected towns off their land. This became a central plot point in the show.
"It was a very early example of eminent domain," Mr. Oliver said. "The people weren't necessarily given a lot of choice."
But he couples the serious elements with an absurdist sense of humor and a modern sensibility. Although he is a classically trained musician who admires old-time musicals, he wanted the songs to reflect the punk music he loved as a kid.
"You don't really hear a lot of show tunes on the mainstream radio," he said. "It was important to me that the music of the show really matched up with the music I enjoy."
Mr. Bielewicz said he instantly connected with the show's "cartoonish" nature, having grown up on cartoons in the '90s. And as a longtime fan of the comedic rock group Bare Naked Ladies, he said the music resonated with him.
"It's rock 'n' roll that doesn't take itself too seriously."
Don DiGiuglio, artistic director for the No Name Players and director of the upcoming production, designed the stage at Off the Wall Theater to look and feel like a rock concert. It is separated into three distinct sections with a microphone resting at the center and a thrust extending toward the audience. In addition to a backing three-piece band, the three lead actors all play electric guitar, occasionally addressing audience members, much as musicians might do in concert.
The original New York production was minimalist due to tight time constraints on rehearsal imposed by the Fringe Festival. But the No Name Players have the luxury of working on their own terms, allowing the show to grow and take on new dimensions, according to Mr. Oliver, who directed the original production.
Most shows produced by the No Name Players have smaller casts of three to six actors, Mr. DiGiuglio said, making "Bastarditos!" their biggest show to date, both in cast and ambition. Even for larger theater organizations, a 12-actor ensemble can be tricky to coordinate, he added.
"On this level, on this budget, it's something really tricky to pull off," said Luke Bruehlman, 28, who plays Snoozy Van der Val Heuson, one of the Bastarditos.
But navigating these challenges has proved rewarding for the cast and crew of Pittsburghers as they tell this story of misfit revolutionary rockers and craft a show intended, more than anything, to make people laugh.
Mr. Bruehlman likened his experience in the show to his work with the local dinner theater group Mystery's Most Wanted. Similar to "Viva Los Bastarditos!," he said, there's some suspense and some mystery, but the goal is for audiences to have fun.
"It's an easy pill to swallow," he said.
Jacob Axelrad: email@example.com or 412-263-1634. On Twitter: @jakeaxelrad.