It can be refreshing sometimes going to see a show when I have absolutely no idea what to expect, and Loserville was just that for me, a brand new show, the details for which, I knew nothing of. From the marketing of Loserville it is obvious that this is a contemporary musical with a young, energetic cast. Tag lines relating to American TV shows such as Glee and Big Bang Theory give the impression that there might be a kind of geek theme, maybe a little jocks and nerds rivalry, and they’re not wrong; Loserville is all about the underdog reigning triumphant. Taking the concept of a contemporary pop-rock band’s album and creating a full scale musical with it is by no means an easy feat, however Elliot Davis and James Bourne seem to have made easy work of this. The songs and storyline gel together perfectly to make a love story that appeals to today’s generation.
First to mention is the innovative set design by Francis O’Connor. Looking like the inside of a 21st century TARDIS, the impressive, futuristic design is a clever contrast to the 1970s setting of Loserville. Upon the frame of O’Connor’s metallic structure, brightly coloured, cartoon-like additions create each scene and even introduce the cast in a quirky, comic-book fashion. This really is unlike anything I’ve seen design-wise on stage before and it definitely makes an impression. Davis and Bourne are clearly musicians first and foremost, and although the pop-rock music is not to everyone’s taste, and can almost deafen at times, it doesn’t take much for the audience to indulge in the story and embrace the adolescent humour.
With a story set around the world’s first email, geeks vs tough guys and the new girl in school’s secret past, the audience can almost predict the end before it’s even begun. This is not a bad thing however, as there are surprises throughout and you cannot help but root for geeks Michael (Aaron Sidwell) and Holly (Eliza Hope Bennett) to triumph over their obstacles. Sidwell and Bennett work well together with cute, awkward chemistry. Their vocals are well matched, very contemporary and I only got a little nervous when Sidwell’s vocals reached slightly higher than where they seemed comfortable for him. Actually, I found a couple of the individual vocal performances a bit hard to understand, with some cast members sacrificing vocal clarity for ‘pop’ quality. This may be something that will iron out as the cast gain confidence in their new theatre. The teenage lovebirds, Michael and Holly, are backed up by computer room buddies; Lucas Lloyd (Richard Lowe), Marvin Camden (Daniel Buckley) and Francis Weir (Lil’ Chris), all with equal amounts of cringe-worthy and heartfelt moments.
The cast are to be applauded for their high energy and unwavering enthusiasm throughout. Nick Winston’s choreography is intricate and fast, performed fantastically by the ensemble with true polish and perfection. A mix of hip-hop and musical theatre styles, the choreography stands out from anything else in the West End, as does most of the rest of Loserville. Vocally very strong as a company, part of the evening rings out like a rock concert, delicately balanced with softer, sweeter moments. It can be hard to adjust to the overall concept of Loserville when the rest of the West End has such a different sound. Even in rock musicals such as Rock of Ages and We Will Rock You the vocals are still of a musical theatre background, however with Loserville I felt that the vocals, although unique and strong in their own right, were sometimes hard to completely understand and appreciate.
There is no doubt that Loserville will be a roaring success in the West End, it is a fresh new take on musical theatre and one which will appeal to a new market of theatre-goers. Maybe not one for your grandparents, but definitely a fun evening’s entertainment.
Reviewed by Natasha Wynn
Wednesday 17th October 2012