After receiving mixed reviews for its pre-broadway try-out-run in 2015, Be More Chill did not secure a transfer to the New York stage. However, after the cast recording was released online, it climbed its way in to the top ten and re-sparked interest from producers. The show opened Off-Broadway where it played for fourteen months before transferring to Broadway where it played for a further six months.
The original London production opened Off-West End at The Other Palace in February 2020 but had its run cut short due to the pandemic shut down. The show has now reopened, but this time in the West End, where it is playing a ten week run (until 5 September) at the Shaftesbury Theatre, featuring the original London cast.
Set in an American high school, Be More Chill is a typical story of ‘boy meets girl, girl isn’t interested, so boy tries to change himself so she will like him’ (the opposite of Sandy and Danny in Grease – minus the cat suit).
When geeky Jeremy finds himself falling for theatre-nerd Christine, he realises he needs to become more popular in order to win her affection. A chance encounter will bully Rich, leads him to taking a “Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor”— “Squip” pill which implants itself into his brain, creating a voice in his head, telling him what to say and do in order to ‘Be More Chill’. But as the Squip takes control of his brain, Jeremy starts to forget about his real life (and best friend Michael) and becomes a slave to the Squip who has world domination on his mind.
This is a wonderful ensemble show. Renée Lamb brings the house down with her incredible vocals as Jenna and Scott Folan is suitably awkward as geeky Jeremy. Miracle Chance is a hilarious bundle of energy as Christine and Eloise Davis is really one to watch as Brooke (I think she has a very bright future ahead of her). Stewart Clarke brilliantly embodies the role of computer generated villain Squip, giving us Teen Angel vibes in a not so technicolor dreamcoat. But it is Blake Patrick Anderson, as Michael, who stands out the most and his rendition of ‘Michael In The Bathroom’ brings the house down.
Other cast members – all of which deserve to be mentioned are Christopher Fry (Mr Heere, Mr Reyes and others), James Hameed (Rich Goranski), Gabriel Hinchliffe (Ensemble), Eve Norris (Ensemble), Millie O’Connell (Chloe Valentine) and Miles Paloma (Jake Dillinger), who all help bring this show to life.
The Choreography is hip and young and unlike anything I have seen before (especially inventive in ‘Two Player Game’) and the Direction is perfect. The songs are high energy, poppy and very catchy – making it understandable why the show became a success because of the cast recording.
Be More Chill may appeal to a younger, teen audience, resonating with the themes of school life but I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show. A massive shout out to the team who cast the show with with actors of all shapes and sizes because we need to start normalising that not everyone in the world has (or should aspire to have) a six pack.
Be More Chill is a wonderful reminder that the future of theatre is in safe hands with a fresh, young and vibrant cast, bursting with energy and the ability to really sing, act and dance.
Reviewed by West End Wilma