Review: Loserville

Posted by Matt Bourne on 16:54 with No comments
Loserville  - Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road.

It's been 10 years since a musical has opened in London's West End that has not been based on a movie, an established band's extensive back catalogue or a 'classic' musical being revitalised.  Loserville is set to change all of that.  With influences from James Bourne's Welcome to Loserville album (Yes, he of Busted, Son of Dork & now the Future Boy project), comes Loserville, kicking in the doors of Theatreland's establishment to breath new life into what is in danger of becoming a stuffy old boys club.

The year is 1971 and Micheal Dork (Aaron Sidwell), is on the verge of making a major breakthrough in computer technology.  His best friend, Lucas Lloyd (Richard Lowe) is wring a Sci Fi novel he hopes will one day get published.  New girl in town Holly Manson (Eliza Hope Bennett) wants to be the worlds first female astronaught. But Eddie Arch (Stewart Clarke), the Alpha male around school and son of the owner of Arch Computers who are also racing to make the breakthrough first, just wants to make Michael's life a misery.  Eddie's long suffering girlfriend Leia (Charlotte Harwood) just wants to marry Eddie and live the life of a lady of leisure.

They all go to the same high school and for Micheal, Lucas and their nerd in arms friends  Francis (Lil' Chris) & Marvin (Daniel Buckley) their lives are turned upside down upon the arrival of Holly who happens to know a thing or two about computers herself.  Aiding Michael in his quest, Holly and Micheal are soon smitten with each other, but with Eddie and his gang not to far away, the course of true love is unlikely to run anything but smooth.

Loserville the Musical, written by Elliott Davis & James Bourne could not have arrived in the West End a moment too soon.  Like a breath of fresh air, it comes in with it's carefree pop/rock panache and busts wide open the doors and ushers in a new era to the place.  Featuring a young cast with so much burgeoning talent, that you can't believe that it's all been contained in one place!  

The show whips along at thunderous pace with songs that burst into your soul and make you just tap, clap and sing away, it's unbelievable that nothing like this has come along sooner.  The first thing that strikes you is the incredible set design & staging which is like walking onto the set of the new Tron movie with its futuristic look and electric blue pulses running through the stage.  But when the show takes off, the place comes alive and you are catapulted into a very clever 70's show style opening complete with character credits and the simple genuis of using larger than life notebooks, pencils & comic books to create the period feel and also make the futuristic backdrop just disappear and reappear from view as the story takes you on through the characters journeys.

Then there's the cast, who are individually outstanding.  As a group they are brilliant.  From the simply delightful Eliza Hope Bennett's Holly, who is like a young Mary Poppins gliding across the stage , drawing you into her characters innocent charms, but underneath has a real fire and passion which exudes from every pore.  Aaron Sidwell up until this point may have been best known for playing Steven Beale in Eastenders, but now has created in Michael Dork a brilliant fusion of latter day computer geniuses (Jobs, Zuckerberg & Gates et al) and makes it easy to root for him.

The hidden gem though is Richard Lowe as Lucas who is straight out of drama school and straight into a leading role in the West End.  The casting team couldn't have got it more right to take a chance with a newcomer.  He makes it look a) effortless and b) like he's a seasoned pro as he allows Lucas journey to unfold before your eyes and ears.  Stewart Clarke's villain of the piece Eddie Arch is absolutely immense.  His timing, ticks and facial expressions are absolutely hysterical for all the right reasons.  A bad guy you can absolutely love to hate, an deep velvety voice that will have all the ladies swooning over the bad guy.  Played by Gareth Gates when the show was in Leeds, it's hard to imagine how he could have done a better job.  Then there is the stunning Charlotte Harwood, who as Leia may not command the best lines, but she commands the stage every time she is present and you can't help but be beguiled by her in every scene she appears in.

Loserville doesn't just score top marks in the lead roles either, as the supporting cast are just as great too. Michael & Lucas best friends in Francis & Marvin are a perfect match too.  Lil' Chris comic timing is impeccable and Daniel Buckley is ace as well.  All of them compliment the show so well.  The other outstanding cast member is Whitney White as Samantha, one of Leia's 'Pink' friends, who herself has a secret to share.  Her voice is as sweet as honey, which you could listen to all day.

What Davis & Bourne have created here is simplicity.  But simplicity in it's finest form.  It's so clever and at times it doesn't even realize how clever it is.  The lyrics are great, the music (And band) are superb and the cast couldn't be any better.  It's almost sickening how talented everyone involved in the show are, but instead it's to be celebrated. Because London's theatreland can rest assured that it's future is safe in the hands of all of this upcoming talent.

If your looking for something away from the musical norm, then this geekfest is for you.  It's also one of the few shows that is truly for all the family as you don't have to worry about the content.  The music will be enjoyed by everyone.  The cast are so lovable  you will want to take them all home with you.  The sheer passion and energy will have you worn out by the end of the first half, but make sure you re-energize yourself for the second half so you can get to your feet at the end and deliver the standing ovation that Loserville so richly deserves.  

Welcome to the dawn of the next generation of West End superstars & welcome to the world of Theatre Geek Chic.  Forget 'Ticket Outta Loserville', you'd be the loser if you don't get a ticket INTO Loserville!!

Matt Bourne