“Loserville,” directed at The Fredericktowne Players by Matthew Bannister, is a lesser-known West End musical based on a 2005 pop-punk album. It follows a plot fit for a young adult novel: high schooler Michael Dork (Jake Schwartz) is a computer geek who dreams of discovering how to send messages between two computers. When new girl Holly (Delaney) arrives at school, announcing her love of computers and sky-high aspirations, Michael invites her onto his project.
However, conflict arises when Michael discovers that both he and his best friend Lucas (Alyx Greer) have a crush on Holly. Meanwhile, when Eddie (James Downing), the son of a local computer magnate and one of the popular kids who terrorize Michael and his friends, finds out he is not getting a job at his father’s company after graduation, he begins devising a way to use Holly and Michael’s work to his benefit.
If you enjoy teen-centric musicals, or if you just want to see something you’ve never seen before, this show is sure to please.
Though “Loserville” appears to be mimicking the teen musical precedents set by hits like “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Heathers,” and, particularly, “Be More Chill,” “Loserville” actually predates all of them, meaning that any similarities are coincidental.
Still, there are similarities aplenty, from a troupe of braindead jocks that emulate “Heathers’s” Kurt and Ram to Lucas, who, as the laid-back friend who begins to spiral when his best friend starts ignoring him, is analogous to Michael from “Be More Chill.” That is to say, if musicals about quirky high school underdogs are your things, you’re going to love “Loserville.” My main complaint was that it, at times, tried to strike a tone that was too genuine for the subject matter, asking the audience to feel real, profound sympathy for, say, a character who has to hide her love of Star Trek from her friends at school. There were plenty of moments of levity throughout the script, but the show as a whole would have worked better if it had taken itself just a little less seriously.
Among the shows high points, however, were its songs. Though some of the lyrics were a bit inane, others were cleverly written and remarkably ear-catching, such as the opening number’s hook: “It’s the birth of the digital / God, what a miracle.” Additionally, the punk-inspired, bass-and-drum driven score stands out from “Be More Chill,” “Heathers,” and “Dear Evan Hansen’s” more pop-y sounds. Among my favorite songs were “Slacker,” a group number packed with energy, “We’re Not Alone (Ballad Version),” a love song accompanied by delightfully saccharine ensemble vocals, and “Sick,” a melodramatic quartet that was expertly staged and acted, making for one of the show’s most affecting moments.
Additionally, “Holly I’m the One” was a standout moment for Greer as Lucas; their voice has a grungy quality that is perfect for a rock ballad like this one. Other standout performances include Downing, who gave a skin-crawling performance as the conniving and predatory Eddie; Summer Grove, who did a perfect job softening the audience’s ire into sympathy for her character, Leia; and Justin Patterson and Noah Haren as Francis and Marvin, two of Michael’s sidekicks, whose over-the-top personas provided the majority of the show’s laughs.
The show would not have been as noteworthy if not for the excellent technical elements, including dazzling lights by Lindsey McCormick and a set by Tyler Brust. Choreographer Laurie Newton was well up to the challenge of choreographing to the somewhat atypical score; her sharp, smart choreography was a joy to watch and brought the show’s high school setting to life. Finally, the on-stage band — composed of Matthew Dohm on keys, Jasiu Mich on guitar 1, Luis “Matty” Montes on guitar 2, Chip Racster on bass, and Tyler Golsen on drums — not only were note-perfect but also brought an amazing energy to the production.
If you enjoy teen-centric musicals, or if you just want to see something you’ve never seen before, this show is sure to please. With a talented cast of actors and a unique score you won’t be able to resist dancing to, you won’t be asking for a “Ticket Outta Loserville.”
Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission.
The Fredericktowne Players’ production of “Loserville” plays February 7th and 8th at 8pm and February 9th at 2pm at the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater, which is located on the Frederick Community College Campus, 7932 Opossumtown Pike, Frederick, MD 21701. For tickets and information, click here.