We were desperate to like new West End musical Loserville. We love Grease, Glee, Saved By The Bell, The Big Bang Theory. We appreciate a quirky cartoony-set, peopled with Uniqlo-clad clichéd characters. We believe that one day the geeks with inherit the earth. We (just about) remember teenage angst. We’re no strangers to the joys of pop-punk music. Hey, we even owned a Busted album, once.
But somewhere in the many, many (five?) reprises of Elliot Davis and James Bourne’s loudly numbing near-duplicate lite-rock musical numbers, we realised despite all the youthful talent on display up on stage, we just weren’t enjoying ourselves.
Set in a totally unrecognisable 1971, Loserville is the story of four High School geeks trying to make their mark in a jock-dominated world. Computer lover Michael Dork (an excellent Aaron Sidwell) is determined to make his machines “message each other”; his writer friend Lucas (the clue’s in the name) is ostensibly just a poor extended joke about a sci-fi novel called “Galaxy Battles” (ahem). Eliza Hope Bennett provides the love interest as wannabe “woman astronaut” Holly; when she bemoans being “cursed with brains and looks,” it’s funny the first time, but again, the heavy songwriting hammers all wit from what could be a light, fun song. A flimsy improbable blackmail plot further hinders Holly’s character, but Bennett does well with the frankly dodgy material.
There are fun touches with an inventive use of over-sized pencils and notepads to create cartoonish sets (we particularly liked the 10-pin bowling sequence), and Francis O’Connor’s circuit-board backdrop works well. And we cannot fault the slick performances, incredible energy and heartfelt effort of the whole young cast (many making their West End debuts); to do so would be like punching a puppy.
But as each samey shouty song rolled relentlessly on (with corresponding copy-cat choreography), and the team sang about wanting “a ticket out of Loserville”, we confess to having similar ideas.