Be More Chill is a couple of hours of enjoyable, escapist fun at the Shaftesbury Theatre
“I am not the one who the story’s about”
Through no fault of its own, I just decided that I didn’t need Be More Chill in my life when it opened last year at The Other Palace, put it down to me trying to see less… And since that happened in a way more drastic manner than anyone could have foreseen, I had to say yes when the show announced its reboot for a summer season at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
And I’m so glad I did, as I’d been doing myself out of a really fun show. Joe Tracz’s book borrows heavily from traditions of high school melodramas and social outcasts learning life lessons but it swerves the po-faced sanctimony of the likes of Dear Evan Hansen and dives headlong into the pulpy thrills of the likes of Little Shop of Horrors, resulting in something daftly enjoyable.
Proud geek Jeremy is our Seymour, a rough AI called The Squip is our Audrey Two and there’s love interests, sexually ambiguous best friends, jocks, mean girls and a school play to cover all the necessary bases. Ultimately, there may not be many surprises contained within the narrative but it has a huge amount of heart and it has clearly cut through, as its devoted – and young – cult audience attests.
Joe Iconis’ bright and brash score is fresh and cheery, strident pop anthems sitting nicely alongside its more introspective moments, and Stephen Brackett’s direction matches it for vibrancy. Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design and Alex Basco Koch’s projections are stunningly realised, feeling truly of the minute, and Chase Brock’s explosively fun choreography makes some of its set pieces spectacular.
The production is also blessed with a very game cast, giving it their all. Scott Folan’s nerdish Jeremy is well done, unafraid to show off the sharper edges of a journey of self-discovery that takes no prisoners as far as his loved ones go. Stewart Clarke is devilishly good fun as the increasingly menacing Squip and from Blake Patrick Anderson’s highly appealing Michael to Renée Lamb’s Jenna, supporting roles are always close to scene-stealingly good.
Be More Chill is one of those shows it is probably best not to think about too much, the plot’s denouement doesn’t really hold up to too much scrutiny and there isn’t too much being said here that hasn’t been said before. But packaged like this, it’s a couple of hours of enjoyable, escapist fun.