I welcomed Loserville when it first premiered professionally at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2012 for bringing an original and authentic rock musical voice to the theatre in the work of co-writer James Bourne (previously of the bands Son of Dork and Busted, and now a member of McBusted) and Elliot Davis. But it was transferred to the West End a little overhastily before resolving its book’s structural problems, and it quickly floundered.
Now it has returned for the first time since then in an enthusiastically punchy, peppy, and preppy production, which turns Loserville into a winner. This is not least because of its terrific score, which sounds gleaming, fresh and tuneful here, thanks to a three-piece band under Bryan Hodgson. The band cleverly resists the urge to pump up the volume but instead offers discreet accompaniment. Director Michael Burgen also has the neat idea of having the chorus supply a backstage surround-sound accompaniment to the onstage singing.
The pop-up cartoon book storytelling style makes it a pastiche of High School Musical crossed with Glee – not as banal as the former, but not as clever as the latter – though it offers a neatly imagined story about the 1971 birth of email amid the timeless betrayals and bullying of teenage friendships.
Burgen’s cast invests it with just the right amount of knowing humour, with lots of hilarious posturing by Lewis Bradley, Ryan Ridley and Charles Kendall among the college jocks, and Luke Newton, Holly-Anne Hull, Jordan Fox and Matthew Harvey touchingly leading the college nerds.
Technical problems with the lighting at the final preview performance I saw were overcome by the force of the show’s musical vitality and the production’s slightly over-crowded enthusiasm.
Dates: February 25-March 21, PN February 27
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.