A review by John Burland
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If Grease was the smash hit youth musical of the 70’s then I am sure that Loserville is going to be the same for this current decade.
James Bourne, former member of Busted and Son of Dork along with his friend Elliot Davis, has written this musical based on the Son of Dork album, Welcome to Loserville. The slogan used for the musical is ‘If you can’t predict the future, invent it….’, and is centred on 17 year-old Michael Dork, who is called a nerd, geek and slacker by others. Socially marginalised by the entire school he is also constantly picked on by Eddie, the coolest boy in school, played by Pop Idol star Gareth Gates. Michael is desperate to find his ticket out of Loserville. But when stunning new girl Holly, who is another computer expert and wants to be the first female astronaut, arrives at the school, Michael is introduced to a whole new world of cool. Together they take on the might of Arch Systems, owned by Eddie’s father, to become the first people to get two computers to communicate with each other via electronic mail – and as they say, “the rest is history”.
The production is funny yet poignant at times, has great songs, oozes vitality and features some incredible sets. There are some terrific performances in the show, notably from Aaron Sidwell as Michael and Eliza Hope Bennett as Holly. Both have excellent voices particularly Eliiza in the song, Breakout They combine well together in We’re Not Alone, a very poignant scene in the Planetarium. They are very well supported by Gareth Gates as Eddie and Charlotte Harwood as Eddie’s girlfriend Leia, plus also Richard Lowe, Daniel Buckley and Lil’ Chris as Lucas, Marvin and Francis, three of Michael’s friends. Some of the funniest moments in the show come when Lucas, who is writing a book about a Space Conflict, hears expressions and writes them down to use. These include computer programming terms between Michael and Holly such as CP3 – Oh what comes next?, and OB one, can OB be something else? As we all know, these subsequently become CP3O and Obi Wan Kenobe in Star Wars. And of course Leia eventually becomes Princess Leia.
Two aspects made this a stand-out musical for me. Firstly the superb music which is a mix of original songs from the Welcome to Loserville album plus also a further eight new songs written by James Bourne and Elliot Davies to complement the storyline where original songs wouldn’t have fitted in. Some of these are superb particularly Ticket Outta Loserville which is a great number for the whole company reminiscent of We Go Together out of Grease. Secondly, as mentioned above, I was blown away by the amazing sets and the technical wizardry of these. Words cannot describe what Francis O’Connor has done with the set design. The scenes set in the Arch Systems computer suite and the Planetarium are truly amazing! You really have to see them for yourself.
The band is excellent under the leadership of Jim Henson on Keyboards and well supported by Andy Shaw and Ollie Hannifan on Lead Guitars and Olly Buxton on bass guitar, plus also Daniel Hall, the Son of Dork drummer, who James Bourne has brought with him to Leeds to fulfil this role. Steven Dexter has done a terrific job as Director with very slick scene changes as has Nick Winston the Choreographer with some outstanding dancing by this young cast making this an absolutely knockout show.
Many shows from the West Yorkshire Playhouse have gone on to be smash hits down in the West End and over on Broadway, namely Bad Girls the Musical, Bat Boy, Singin’ in the Rain and Martin Guerre. I can’t see any possible reason why Loserville cannot follow suit and become a massive UK and global phenomenon.
The show runs until Saturday 14th July. It is certainly one not to be missed.
Posted on Monday 25th June 2012
Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UP
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