Be More Chill, Thrills
Be More Chill officially opened at The Other Palace last night.
There’s never been a better time in history to be a loser,” says a teenage nerd at the outset of Be More Chill. He has a point. High-school misfits seem to be having a moment. We have Otis and Eric on television and Evan Hansen on stage. Now there’s Jeremy and his best friend Michael, who are the lonely, lovable oddballs in this musical about the growing pains of contemporary masculinity.
But Be More Chill is far from a neat continuation of a trend. Arriving from Broadway, it feels gloriously like its own thing, filled with astute observation alongside delightfully silly humour and storming performances.
Stephen Brackett’s production dramatises the life of those at the bottom of the high-school hierarchy. Based on a YA novel by Ned Vizzini, Scott Folan’s delicate, vulnerable performance establishes antihero Jeremy as a lonely outcast who is desperate to be loved. When he hears of the Squip – an implant that embeds itself in the brain and gives instructions on how to “be more chill” – it sounds like an answer to his dreams of popularity.
If the Squip is an internet-age metaphor for drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin, or for the noise of social media, neither of these aspects are driven home with heavy-handedness. They hover delicately around the drama and create an extra layer of anxious meaning.
Every cast member shines, both as individual performers and an ensemble.
Glorious misfit musical for the age of oddballs – The Guardian ★★★★
A coming-of-age story with fabulous catchy tunes – The Telegraph ★★★★
Fizzes with feel-good energy – The Stage ★★★
This musical is refreshingly fun with an abundance of energy – London Theatre Review