Theatre review: Loserville at the Garrick Theatre

(From left) Daniel Buckley, Richard Lowe, Lil’ Chris & Aaron Sidwell in Loserville. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Do you like your musicals poppy, fun and bright? Then Loserville is for you (and me).

Poptastic, while not a real word, is actually the perfect word to describe this show.

Set in 1971 (although a very fictional 1971), Loserville is a bright, bubbly, fizzy production full of catchy pop songs and plenty of colour.

If you didn’t know it was written by former Busted member James Bourne, you could probably guess, since nearly all the numbers have that recognisable Busted/McFly edge to them, but that’s no bad thing (most of the time) when you find your foot tapping and a smile spreading across your face during the songs. 

Loserville follows computer geek Michael Dork and his misfit friends Lucas, Marvin and Francis (these are my kind of people), who are about to change the world. Bullied for being slackers, they refuse to change their ways.

When new girl Holly arrives in town, all of Michael’s dreams seem to be coming true, but it’s more complicated than he thinks, as rich kid Eddie discovers Holly’s dark secret (spoiler alert: it’s really not that dark) and plans to use it to his advantage.

The young cast are fun to watch, particularly Lil’ Chris as Francis and Daniel Buckley as Marvin, whose geek tendencies ooze out of every pore, and Stewart Clarke as Eddie, who is odious but compelling all the same (and he has a great singing voice… and great abs).

Eliza Hope Bennett (Holly) and Aaron Sidwell (Michael Dork). Picture: Tristram Kenton

Lead characters Michael, played by Aaron Sidwell, and Holly, played by Eliza Hope Bennett, are sweet to watch as they traverse through their burgeoning romance, although the two don’t have the strongest singing voices in the cast.

Sometimes there’s too much going on. There are eight characters who all have significant plots, and I can’t help but think one or two of them could have been dispensed with. Still, they’re all characters you can relate to, and the good ones are definitely characters you spend the whole play rooting for. 

Loserville isn’t afraid to break free of the constraints of traditional musicals (there’s no stuffiness here), and does so by happily introducing its cast and the characters they play at the beginning, and then letting credits roll at the end.

Imagine the opening scene of Grease, where Frankie Valli sings Grease while cartoon credits roll by – that’s Loserville. Its imaginative staging includes a lot of props and sets drawn on large pieces of cardboard, cleverly moved round or held up by the cast members themselves. And the main set, an industrial looking moveable contraption to represent Arch Systems, is futuristic without looking cold – reflecting one of the plot threads in the production. 

There’s a lot of movement, with plenty of energetic dance numbers, although the one down side of these is the sometimes unnecessary dance troupe always hovering in the background. They’re needed for some songs, but others would be just as good with just the main cast members on stage, as the troupe flinging themselves around in the back distracts from the main emotions of some songs. 

Loserville contains plenty of “geek” references, heavy on the Star Trek and Star Wars in particular, but the play is by no means exclusively for geeks. I know next to nothing about the aforementioned, and I still got all the references, and laughed at most of them. 

There are lots of good musical numbers. Brains and Looks introduces you quickly to characters but gives a great insight into them at the same time, while Holly I’m The One is more mournful and Sick is a mix of angry and sad. And there are plenty of others that will have you humming along. 

Loserville is fun, fearless and not afraid to be a bit different and inspires you to be the same.

Loserville is at the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road.

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