Saturday, 13 October 2012

Loserville - Get Your Geek on

If you commute in London you've seen the signs for the new musical, Loserville. The advertising campaign has been big and effective. The posters are photos of a cast member leaping through the abyss of a stark, white background and then, of course the usual claims to being the best musical ever. A couple of weeks ago friend of mine got a deal on tickets and asked if I wanted to go with her.

"They say it's the next great British musical, so it must be good."

At that, my inner cynic reared her ugly head. "They're hardly going to call it 'the next perfectly mediocre British musical', are they?"

But, seeing as I've yet to meet the musical that I didn't enjoy I was all in for what the advertising compared to Glee and The Big Bang Theory. The next great British musical about nerds? I'm in.
This story charts the birth of email as 1970s nerds race to get computers talking while the good looking but dim jock runs the usual interference. This isn't the boy-meets-girl story that you always seen on stage, though, and while parts of it feel contrived, for the most part the relationships are interesting - a big departure from a stock musical. It was a night of bubbly fun with upbeat music, energetic acting and lots of puns, particularly related to Star Wars. My favourite?

"Oh, B1..."
"Cannoli?"
"Oh B1 cannoli...that's good."

Get it? No? Read it out loud - Oh B 1 cannoli - yes, they were all that bad, in a cringingly good way. Unfortunately, this was paired with some fairly hammy acting. My more forgiving friend reckons that this was just because we saw it in previews and that they'll improve. I'm not so sure. I think it might have been an attempt at irony that didn't quite come off, rather like their American accents.

It's a shame that they decided to set the production in the US and to have the actors play with American accents. All of them did fine imitations and some of them were even excellent, but it's something that you notice as an audience member and that means it's just a little off. Ideally, you shouldn't even think about an actor's accent; that's how you know they're brilliant (Hugh Laurie in House, Damian Lewis in Homeland). Writers Elliot Davis and James Bourne probably decided to make it American to allow for more Star Trek and Star Wars jokes, but it would have been fine with fewer of those.

Richard Lowe as Lucas is the standout performer and not just because he's clearly writing Star Wars and gets the killer cannoli line. His singing is top notch and he plays his character with an honesty and complexity that you don't expect in this bubbly, pun-filled production. He may not be the technical lead, but he drives the musical forward. I found myself waiting for him to come back on stage and hoping he'd be singing the next song.

The production itself is also brilliant. It begins with opening credits for the actors on large representations of notebook pages, which felt very fresh. The notebooks are a recurring image and are cleverly used as both props and parts of the scenery. This creativity, the talent of the cast, especially Lowe, and the fact that the musical is self-aware and knows it's cheesy do compensate, in the end, for an over-acted script. It's clearly a young person's musical as evidenced by the audience on the Wednesday night we went, which was almost all under 30 and a huge portion of which looked more like 20. Not your typical West End crowd. They were fully engaged for the whole production. Particular hits seemed to be the couple of swears and when one actor gave the crowd a peek at his washboard abs. Maybe we were there on the night all the cast had friends in the audience, but it seems more likely that Loserville is tapping into a youth interest that isn't represented by the West End institutions like Phantom and Les Mis.

Loserville is playing at the Garrick Theatre until 02 March 2013 and tickets can be bought for
£10 -£50 by clicking here.

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