In a country in which the top comedy — “The Big Bang Theory” — is a show set around the lives of a group of nerds, Pittsburg High School Theatre is giving the people what they like and breaking new ground while they’re at it.
As far as PHS theatre teacher Greg Shaw knows, Thursday’s performance of “Loserville” will be the play’s North American debut.
“We’re the first in the country. The only ones listed are seven or eight after us,” Shaw said. “I believe we’re the first high school for sure.”
The play has a background of its own, starting with British band Son of Dork. The group, which has broken up, turned two of their popular albums into a stage performance that has been “wildly successful in England,” said Shaw, the musical’s director.
The play was made available to community theaters, high schools and colleges instead of heading straight to Broadway. That’s good news for the PHS students, who seemed to have a smile on their faces during every song and dance number during “Loserville.”
Performances will be 7 p.m. today and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. One performance, originally scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m., was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon to avoid conflicting with the Pittsburg High School football game.
The show centers around Will Jewett playing Michael Dork, a computer geek attempting to break new ground not only with connecting computers, but also with connecting to new girl in school Holly (Makayla Bockover). Michael’s friends Lucas (Derek Brumbaugh) — who is working on a script that sounds like it could be set in a galaxy far, far away — Francis (Jared Wilde) and Marvin (Mark Weaver), are like most of the cast in trying to find their own “Ticket outta Loserville.” The primary antagonist is self-centered jock Eddie (Jack Warring).
The choreography is delightfully nerdy, with tight elbows and loose knees galore. The music, performed live under the direction of Susan Laushman but written by Son of Dork, is both catchy and, although set in the 1970s, largely modern in its styling. The costumes are geek chic in their finest, with thick-rimmed glasses, tight shorts and Star Trek insignia galore.
The energy, action and music combine to make the show a fun performance to put on, which is visible in the faces of the actors in practically every number.
“It is a good message, that you shouldn’t care what everyone else thinks and that it only matters what you think of yourself,” Bockover said. “The music is easy to listen to.”
“It’s like a song I’d normally listen to,” Brumbaugh said.
Shaw said he’s proud of the cast and crew for putting on such a big show in such a little amount of time.
“The schedules grabbed a week over each end. In a perfect world, we’d have four weeks for a show. In an OK world, we’d have three weeks. This one, we had two and a half weeks,” Shaw said. “The kids are up to it. It’s a good lesson in doing things under pressure.”
The cast also includes Ryan Amick (Wayne), Ashley Burch (Davina), Sarah Colyer (Principal), Morgan Grotheer (Ivanka), Skyler Jones (Marina), Olivia Joy (Leia), Shelby Simpson (Duvante), Lydia Winters (Elaine), Maddie Weidert (Samantha), Kagen White (Huey), and Susie (Coral VanBecelaere). Alli Baden and Macy Frasco are parts of the ensemble and serve as dance captains, while Damien Ridenour, Will Schindler and Claire Caffrey round out the ensemble.
This is the first production in many years with a student lighting director, Jon Commons, who also served as stage manager.
Laushman, in addition to working as conductor of the pit band, was also vocal director. The pit band also included Cooper Neil on guitar, Clara Wehrman on piano, Matt McMaster on drums and Daniel Munguia on bass.
Denise Williams is the technical director, and Maggie and Mollie Stephens are the choreographer and assistant choreographer, respectively. Anita White designed the poster/program, and Sarah Colyer did the publicity. Dustin Simons runs the light board and Ethan Ortiz and Cole Brazil run the sound board. The construction and deck crew included Ryan Amick, Jack Warring, Jon Commons, Ashley Burch, Sarah Colyer, Lydia Winters, Dustin Simons, Liz Graham, Evie Shawn, Dalton Bell, Hunter Cress, Ethan Jewell, Kaleb Dial, Veronica Romero, Jonna Wrght, Jackson Bertoncino, Stephanie Neville and Makayla Watkins.