By Mike Zellhofer
Approx Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission
Every year there is a hot, new musical released for production. And every year reviewers are forced to write about a different theatre company’s version of said musical. Ask any reviewer about the six times they saw Shrek, the eight times they saw Newsies, or how many times they think they’ll see Kinky Boots this year. The Fredericktowne Players (FtP) are an oasis in desert of monotony. They take a chance on a little-known show called Loserville.
Loserville, (book, music & lyrics by Elliot Davis and James Bourne), is directed by Matthew Bannister, with musical direction by Matthew Dohm, and choreographed by Laurie Newton. Bannister bravely tackles the challenge of presenting a show that almost no one has heard of and delivers an interesting production. His staging and use of the space are to be commended. He clearly shared his vision with set designer Tyler Brust who produced a clever, aesthetically place to perform. The moving staircase and punch cards were a nice touch. Newton keeps things moving and fills the stage with dancers. Overall, I enjoyed the choreography and was impressed at times with the lifts and spins performed by the cast. Dohm does a nice job with his cast and gets the most out of them vocally. There are a few good voices that stand out but where Dohm really excels is with the band. As someone who prefers live music over the recorded accompaniment, I applaud their effort. The band was tight, in sync and crisp. Live music does sometimes come with a disadvantage though and to quote the great Adrian Monk, “It’s a blessing and a curse.”
The biggest flaw in the production is sound designer Matthew Moore’s inability to come up with a proper balance. The blame should not fall entirely into Moore’s lap because sometimes the building’s acoustics may make maintaining a balance difficult. Bannister should have recognized this and instead of forcing the issue of having the band on stage, they should have been in the pit or back stage. I got the gist of what was going on, and thankfully the program provided a two page synopsis of the show, because once the band started playing I could not make out what was being sung. The slower ballads were clear but most of the show was lost to me.
Despite the overpowering music there were several stand out performances. Tori Shemer (Susie Alpine) is a ball of energy that keeps the stage charged with her electricity. Shemer doesn’t have many speaking lines but her time on stage does not go unnoticed. She is a dancer that looks like she enjoys performing. She also sings a few solo lines and when she does, she is spot on.
Justin Patterson (Francis Wier) and Noah Haren (Marvin Camden) will keep you laughing. These two play well against one another and are a bright spot whenever they are on stage. Alyx Greer (Lucas Llyod) is the best friend everyone wants to have. He perfectly communicates the pain that we all experience when you are best friends with someone and then he/she discovers boys/girls.
No musical is complete without a young ingenue and Delaney White (Holly Madison) does not disappoint. White has a beautiful voice with the ability to go from ballad to belt. Her performance showed that she is a gifted actor willing to put in the work to develop her character.
In my opinion Jake Schwartz (Michael Dork) is the glue that held this production together. Schwartz is the embodiment of every bad high school memory. From the opening number he commands the stage. He flows fluently from the geek that the cool kids pick on to the geek that is, well head of the geeks. He knows when he is outmatched and also when he rules over his fellow loser subjects. His zingy one liners are hysterical and delivered with precise comedic timing. His character work is his strength but, in this production, his vocal chops are not to be overlooked. Both he and White make this a show worth seeing.
One final shout out. Thank you, thank you, thank you stage manager Aimee Penn and your amazing run crew. The scene changes were fast, smooth and flawless. Your expertise kept the show moving and this audience member certainly appreciated it.
Don’t be a loser. Go see the show. This is what I thought of Loserville at Fredericktowne Players… what did you think? Feel free to drop a comment!
Loserville will play through February 9 at Fredericktowne Players, Frederick Community College, 7932 Opossumtown Pike, Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 240-315-3855 or you can purchase them online.
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