Loserville: Review Roundup

Eliza Hope Bennett and Aaron Sidwell

The new West End musical Loserville, inspired by Son of Dork’s 2005 album Welcome to Loserville, has announced it will close Jan. 5, two months earlier than originally scheduled, due in part to lukewarm reviews. The creative team includes Son of Dork frontman James Bourne and Elliot Davis (book, lyrics, music), Steven Dexter (direction), Nick Winston (choreography), Francis O’Connor (sets, costumes), Stephen Snell (costumes), Howard Harrison (lights), and Simon Baker (sound). The cast includes Aaron Sidwell (Michael), Eliza Hope Bennett (Holly), Stewart Clarke (Eddie), Charlotte Harwood (Leia), Richard Lowe (Lucas), Lil’ Chris (Francis), and Daniel Buckley (Marvin), with Jade Albertsen, Sophie Ayers, Laura Bennett, Robbie Boyle, Matthew Bradley, Olly Buxton, Andrew Carthy, Freya Field, Daniel Hall, Lauren Hall, Ollie Hannifan, Dan Krikler, Duncan Leighton, Ashley Luke Lloyd, Megan Louch, Andy Shaw, Sarah Watson and Witney White.

Laura Barnett (Guardian): With new musicals notoriously difficult to launch, it’s no wonder the marketing has been intense for the show … but it also makes it difficult to view it as much more than a cynical attempt to cash in on the lucrative craze for high school-set shows with songs. … Francis O’Connor’s superb design makes the most of the show’s geek-chic aesthetic – the set is a huge microchip – and there are some standout performances among the young cast, particularly from Stewart Clarke as the arrogant jock, Eddie. But there are too many toe-curling moments. … The relentless pop-rock score is also over-loud and affords too little variation of pace and tone; it quickly proves wearisome.

Julie Carpenter (Express): Shows don’t get much perkier than this. … Loserville is a new British musical with a super-keen cast who look like they’re on a sugar high. The set consists of an impressive backdrop of a rudimentary computer circuit while boards with bright, cartoonish scenery somehow reinforce how we’re in the age of the pad and pencil. As for the songs, just because the setting is the Seventies, don’t think glam rock. It’s all upbeat pop and if many of the numbers feel the same they’ll still appeal to boyband fans. Is it the best musical ever? No, but it’s feel-good and frothing with energy while the cast hurl themselves in with gusto. The result is as pick-me-up as a double espresso.

Danielle Goldstein (Time Out): It’s farcical stuff but fun all the same, in the way that High School Musical is unashamedly cheesy and so impossibly lovable. The fast-paced storyline is as saccharine and as predictable as its pop-punk soundtrack – the nerds claim victory over the cool kids, learn how to talk to girls and acknowledge the importance of friendship – but it remains amusing and fluid throughout. Even the set changes are incorporated into the high-energy dance routines, ensuring there’s never a lull in the action. And you can rest assured that in Loserville, action means that the geeks always end up on top.

Henry Hitchings (Standard): It’s a noisy alternative to the slick jukebox musicals that now seem ever more common. … The young cast bubbles over with enthusiasm. Although the performances aren’t consistently polished, they are vigorous. Aaron Sidwell, who used to be Steven Beale in East Enders, leads the way as the determined, awkward Michael, and there’s bright work around him from Eliza Hope Bennett, Richard Lowe and Stewart Clarke. The upbeat vibe is at times cloying, and the faux-American idiom never quite comes off. Nor is there much in the story that feels fresh; the plot is woolly, and the material seems like a mishmash of moments from every teen romantic comedy I’ve ever seen. But Bourne and Davis are undoubtedly skilful songwriters, and Loserville is likeable even if it’s unsubtle.

Charles Spencer (Telegraph): I really wanted to like this show. … The trouble is that Loserville, which proves almost insufferably bright and bouncy, leaves you with a weary feeling of déjà vu and indeed déjà entendu. … Some of the tunes undoubtedly worm their way into the memory. After two hours however their tinny joie-de-vivre has become intolerable. … Steven Dexter’s cartoon-like production is relentlessly and brash and for much of the evening I found myself gazing longingly at the exit sign, desperate to escape this derivative pop-culture pap. The one thing that can be said in Loserville’s favour is that its off-putting title tells you all you need to know about the show.

Paul Taylor (Independent): For a show that supposedly celebrates distinctiveness … it never levitates into its own corresponding originality. Except, that is, through the droll, bright verve of Francis O’Connor’s excellent design. … The songs, on a first hearing, all sound more or less the same and are pounded out with bludgeoning loudness in Steven Dexter’s soulless production. The cast leap about hyperactively but, apart from the odd sequence (such as a Judo match between the geeks and the jocks) there is not much charm in all this robotic freneticism. … When the company sing about wanting a “Ticket Outta Loserville,” they were not, from where I was sitting, on their own.

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