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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Loserville
Garrick Theatre   2012 - 2013

Bright, tuneful, energetic, infectiously bouncy and high-spirited, more than a little silly and a bit of a guilty pleasure, Loserville is as entertaining a good-night-out musical as you are likely to encounter. 

It's not My Fair Lady or Les Mis, it doesn't advance the art form a millimetre, you are likely to forget every song and joke even as you're hearing them, but it's fun. 

This is all the more impressive since few of the individual components – book, songs, characters, performances – are particularly strong in themselves. But somehow the package works. 

Set in a 1971 American high school, Loserville centres on the school's biggest nerd, a computer geek who is on the verge of inventing the internet all by himself. He and his friends are, of course, bullied by the jocks, ridiculed by the cheerleaders and unappreciated by the faculty. 

But the pretty new girl in school is also a computer geek, and both romance and science weather a few plot setbacks before (no big spoiler here) they ultimately triumph. 

Story and songs by Elliot Davis and James Bourne, based in part on some songs from Bourne's band Son of Dork, break no new ground and offer no surprises. The characters are all recognisable types and the plot developments drawn from dozens of previous teen plays and films. 

The songs plug in almost by formula – there's a 'Don't let them get you down' song for the nerds, a 'Get out of our way' song for the bullies, a 'We'll make it' song for the lovers, and so on – and none is memorable. 

What book, songs and staging all do have is wit and energy. Davis and Bourne retell all the standard jocks-v-nerds jokes with verve, and manage to sustain simultaneous Star Trek and Star Wars running gags longer than you'd think likely. 

Director Steven Dexter and choreographer Nick Winston keep things moving, with Winston's dancing chorus never seeming to pause for breath, so that every production number is a delight to watch. 

Designer Francis O'Connor wittily builds sets and props out of school notebooks in inventive ways, and the whole thing would be almost as much fun even if you didn't understand English. 

In a cast largely made up of West End first-timers, leads Aaron Sidwell (boy), Eliza Hope Bennett (girl) and Stewart Clarke (bully) are all fine without being particularly star-is-born impressive, and if you happen to see one of the two or three understudies listed for each role (all drawn from the impressive chorus), I don't think you'll miss much.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Loserville - Garrick Theatre 2012  

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