West Yorkshire Playhouse
NEW musicals are notoriously difficult to get off the ground, but here’s one that is sure to fly. It started with storytelling songs from a successful pop album called Welcome to Loserville by Son of Dork (led by former Busted member James Bourne).
Additional songwriting came from award winning theatre composer Elliot Davis, and the team devised a storyline set in 1971 around the birth of email, when IT geeks were still seriously unsexy.
The tale is simple: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and after overcoming moral evils along the way they are reunited.
Mix these ingredients with gifted director Steven Dexter, Martin Lowe the musical director from Mamma Mia! and an exuberantly talented young cast and you have the recipe for a hit.
Loserville is a high school where everyone’s looking for a way out – girls see marriage to a wealthy boy as their route; the wealthy boy trades on his looks and dad’s wallet. A small band of geeky boys who can quote every line from Star Trek and are the butt of collective jokes, dream of making their name by programming the two school computers to “talk” to each other in the first email.
But Michael Dork (former EastEnders star Aaron Sidwell) the teccy wizz, can’t quite crack the code. Enter Holly Manson (Eliza Hope Bennett), whose ambition is to be an astronaut. She outsmarts Michael and a keyboard romance is born. However, brattish and arrogant rich boy Eddie Arch (Gareth Gates) is out to upset the apple cart.
Loserville’s influences are clearly American TV shows such as High School Musical and Glee – so the production bar is set very high. But in almost every respect this show measures up: the cast is uniformly excellent, the choreography sassy and with a wit of its own, and the band does a tremendous job. The vocals are terrific, with particular kudos to Eliza Hope Bennett – surely one to watch.
All the songs deftly move the story on. Francis O’Connor’s superb comic book design ideas help to lift this way beyond any high school musical. However, it seems unfair that Holly doesn’t get all the credit she deserves for the breakthrough Michael hadn’t managed without her.
With a tightening tweak here and there in the script’s more cliched moments, I can see this production having a West End transfer.
To July 14.