Geek! A New Musical is high energy from the off; subtle, this show is not, from the loud costumes to the louder swearing, it dominates the tiny Tristan Bates studio. The book by Scott Morgan leaves no simple word un-rhymed, no High School Musical-esque harmony unsung, no crass joke unsaid.
You join the cliques and the freaks at Sarah Michelle Gellar High, the place where the plot of every chick flick and teen musical comes to amalgamate into a Frankenstein of a show. Populars and hangers-on? Check. New girl makeover? Check. Cruel Intentions incest sub-plot? Absolutely.
But, musically, what is sneakily catchy in the first half quickly becomes repetitive by the second, even a little boring. Simply by setting Geek! in the US, the license is given to cycle through trope after trope after cliché...but it’s ‘parody’! Isn’t it? Sure, there’s a level of self awareness here, but sadly it never really develops, instead layering on crudeness as humour without the intelligence or innovation needed to make it truly funny.
Props to the cast, however, who enter into it with gusto. Anna Haresnape, Ciaran O'Driscoll and Lea Marinelli notably put forward great performances, and it’s a pity that there isn’t more space for the enthusiastic choreography and music during the ensemble pieces. Ewen Macintosh is also an underused straight foil to the ever-gurning Ms Axel (CJ de Mooi) whose wacky physicality steals scenes. It’s a shame for the talent in the cast that the material they’re working with isn’t of the same quality they are.
There’s nothing new (and subsequently not much left that’s interesting) about caricatures of jocks, geeks and emo kids. Once a gag becomes a refrain (like Remus and wrist cutting jokes) it becomes tedious. There are some funny moments, but they swing between arising from the unspoken or more subtle interactions of the cast to the moments where the script is so outrageous that it jumps the shark entirely.
Overall, it doesn’t escape the feel of a skit written by high-schoolers who can see there’s something funny about the world they inhabit but just aren’t sophisticated enough to be truly cutting about it. A+ for enthusiasm, but the content lets it down.