Saturday 10 November 2012

Loserville @ The Garrick Theatre

Loserville has certainly been receiving some mixed responses.  Whilst some reviews have been utterly negative, others have overlooked flaws and praised the show for bringing something novel to the West End as a brand new British musical in a sea of revivals and jukebox shows.  There’s even been some criticism of critics who have panned the show, which is all well and good if the show is actually praiseworthy.  So who’s right?

It might be new to the West End, but Loserville’s narrative is utterly unoriginal, with characters taken from a variety of cult shows.  As a whole it’s a musical that celebrates young freaks and geeks in the same way as Glee, this time a set of four computer nerds who’d be just as at home in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.  Of course their rivals are the cool kids in school, with slicked quiffs Danny from Grease would be proud of and plastic girlfriends to make even the girls from Mean Girls jealous.  The characters are over-acted, the script filled with clichéd jokes that will force laughter and groans in equal measure, and the on-going Star Wars references grow increasingly predictable.  Yet by combining elements from these cult shows and wider teenage culture, Loserville is the perfect show for today’s youth – undoubtedly the primary demographic. 

The music, too, is not original.  Written by ex-Busted member James Bourne, the songs are adapted from his second band Son of Dork’s album ‘Welcome to Loserville’.  As such, watching the show feels like going to a Busted gig, or watching American Pie for the millionth time.  The style is cheesy pop-punk that won’t win any awards for complex arrangements, thematic consistency or profound lyrical meaning, but the melodies are incredibly catchy and you’ll definitely come away singing the tunes.

The main problem with the music is the standard of singing, which is surprisingly weak for a West End cast with tuning problems abound, even if they are young.  This is only highlighted by many of the solo numbers assisted by backing vocals and extra harmonies from the wings.  Thankfully, some of the performances remain likeable amongst the silliness, in particular Aaron Sidwell as protagonist Michael Dork, Charlotte Harwood’s pop vocals as Leia Dawkins and the loveable comedy of Daniel Buckley’s Marvin Camden.

It’s the production that most impresses, however.  The transparent, interlocking set is neon-lit like Tron, whilst everything else from backdrops to props is comprised of notepad pages and pencils.  Whilst this does somewhat cover for a lack of budget, it’s a concept that’s fully embraced along with the vibrant costumes that match the colourful characters.  It’s like watching a Saturday morning cartoon, complete with credits sequences at the beginning and end.  This is further emphasised by the energetic choreography that’s modern, poppy and includes clever use of props such as pencils and letter tiles.  It’s a charming production that’s easy to warm to.

Ultimately, Loserville is an entertaining piece of shallow musical froth that isn’t meant to be taken seriously.  Its youthful and vibrant feel is well suited towards its intended audience and the production has a solid concept.  Embrace your inner-geek and you may just be pleasantly surprised. 

Will this be a long-running staple of the West End?  No, but it’s enjoyable, light-hearted fun so make sure to grab your ticket outta Loserville whilst it lasts.


Watch: Loserville will now be closing in January 2013.