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October 18, 2012 5:33 pm
The poster campaign for this musical runs a number of variations on the theme “If you heart so-and-so, you’ll love Loserville”; the so-and-so’s include Grease, Glee and Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd. I can just about see their point. If, on the other hand, you heart tunes, even the slightest hint of respect for narrative or chronological attention or an atom of inventiveness, you may not be quite so ecstatic.
Several of the numbers are drawn from the 2005 debut album Welcome to Loserville by Son of Dork, a band formed by James Bourne after the demise of his previous combo Busted, and sound much as one would expect of such a pedigree: insistent guitars, adolescent vocals and an almost complete absence of distinctiveness, as if the Buzzcocks had met S Club 7 in an industrial-strength food processor. The plot, for want of a better word, is basic: boy-geek meets girl-geek, they resist pressure by the “popular” but evil kids and invent the internet.
The computer breakthrough used as a plot device here in fact occurred at UCLA in 1969 rather than in a high school in 1971 (school computers in 1971? Really?), but since Francis O’Connor’s visual design is a kind of Archie-comics version of 1980 or so, a couple of years the other way is pretty trivial in the scheme of things. But this is the nub of the matter: it’s an intended period pastiche created by people who seem not to care a fig about getting the period right, and with a soundtrack that doesn’t even touch down in the same century.
This feels like a show that is not aimed at any theatregoing constituency as such – hence the posters’ reference points from TV and movies. The question is: will it mobilise sufficient numbers to take a punt on sitting in a theatre for a couple of hours? On its outing in Leeds in the summer, Loserville drew mainly indulgent reviews. I suspect the London autumn climate will be less forgiving.
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