The social struggles of 19th century France, a woman unsure of the paternity of her daughter and a futuristic planet where individuality is banned. All unlikely topics for hit West End musicals but three hits all the same and now there is another eccentric offering to add to the mix, a musical about the birth of email.
Loserville is much more than binary codes and computer hacking. Set to music by Busted and Son Of Dork star James Bourne, it’s an uplifting pop spectacular where you’re just as likely to see one of Busted’s trademark jumps and a healthy dose of air guitar as you are a jazz hand or high kick.
Set in 1970s America, Loserville has all the components for a high school classic. There are the geeks and nerds, in the form of computer wiz Michael Dork and his friends, sci-fi writer Lucas, over-weight Marvin and mummy’s boy Francis, and the cool kids who rotate around egotistic jock Eddie and his mean girl girlfriend Leia Dawkins like the earth round the sun.
When new girl Holly shows up, the social stratosphere is sent whirling into orbit. A feminist wannabe astronaut with brains and beauty proves confusing for the inhabitants of Loserville who are used to being kept in their cliques with no thought of ever truly just being themselves.
Romance, comedy, slap stick and betrayal, Loserville captures all the high emotion and out of control hormones of teenage life, even if my teenage years were never quite so exciting. With songs proclaiming the amazing things that can happen when you believe in yourself, there is danger of wandering into cheesy territory, but with Bourne’s edgy, witty songs that have the cast passionately declaring “I wouldn’t run you over because I wouldn’t want to dent my car”, Elliot Davis’ razor sharp script, packed full of cutting one-liner put downs – “A million sperm and you were the fastest?” – and Francis O’Connor and Stephen Snell’s truly original comic book design, Loserville ensures if it ever does waver, it’s only for the briefest of moments.
The comic book concept filters down into every aspect of the show creating a colourful, futuristic – well, for the 70s anyway – production straight out of the pages of a graphic novel. Clad in high-waisted shorts and buttoned up shirts, the cast’s costumes are seamed with thick stitches as if they’ve been drawn onto the stage. Against the metal backdrop, that looks just like a computer’s motherboard, the ensemble prove pivotal in creating scene changes, holding up wooden pastel painted panels that place the action anywhere from a bowling alley to Loserville’s Main Street, flipping the boards over to reveal another painted scene and move the action to a wood or school hallway.
At the centre of the story – or the hard drive should I say – Eliza Hope Bennett and Aaron Sidwell are endearingly sweet as the geeky leading couple, bonding over thick-rimmed glasses and a love of computer code. Lil’ Chris – more medium sized now – is a natural on stage as the twitching boy scout who wants to conquer women for his next badge, while Stewart Clarke is as deplorable as they come as the show’s all beauty, no brains bully Eddie.
The show is exactly what you’d expect; pure suspension of reality fun. There are enough Star Wars references to keep any ‘geek’ happy, and high fives with Star Trek fingers and double thumbs up a plenty, but also an abundance of head banging and punching the air to give a satisfyingly rocky edge to all that sweetness.