If Gen Z is a musical, it’s definitely 'Be More Chill'
We've all behaved questionably as teenagers succumbing to peer pressure. It's easy to make irrational decisions when being cool is the only thing that seems to matter. But could a super computer change lives? One nerdy high schooler, Jeremy Heere, attempts to change his life in Be More Chill, an eccentric blast of teenage delirium that isn't actually that chill.
Based on a book by Ned Vizzini, this buzzing musical sees Jeremy swallow a Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor (or SQUIP for short) in an effort to become cool, after he's seen the effects it's had on newly popular classmate Rich. Jeremy buys his own SQUIP at a shady shoe shop at the mall, and activates it with green Mountain Dew. However, eventually being controlled to devastating consequences.
This sci-fi, video game inspired storyline is sure to entice all Heathers and Dear Evan Hansen lovers. It's picked up global streaming success too, with the original Be More Chill cast recording streamed over 475 million times worldwide. But a soundtrack and seeing the show live are two different things. For all its musical hype, this far-fetched musical can get lost in the bright lights, colours, and pulsating projections.
The Be More Chill ensemble complements one another excellently though, and each cast member given their moment to stand in the spotlight. Miracle Chance (as Christine Canigula) is definitely a one to watch; her borderline psychotic turn as the nerdy theatre kid (which this reviewer can personally recognise herself in) had audiences in fits of laughter. Our leading man Scott Folan (as Jeremy Heere) gives a bumbling, charming portrayal of a teenager who just longs to fit in.
The star turn comes from Stewart Clarke (as the SQUIP) bringing an ethereal quality to the role. Remaining distant yet omniscient, the SQUIP exposes the show's darker storylines, leaving audiences feeling as though they've had their optic nerves blocked by the world around them.
Composer/lyricist Joe Iconis's zany score is like a celebratory walk through musicals of the past decade, especially when Renée Lamb (as Jenna Rolan) commandingly riffs her way through "The Smartphone Hour." Blake Patrick Anderson (as Jeremy's best friend Michael Mell) delivers a sucker-punch performance of the famous song "Michael in the Bathroom" with a heart of gold, and the number "Halloween" gives Mean Girls meets an adult version of 13 crossed over with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
But for all its modern lyrics and clever plot points, the show's self-aware silliness doesn't quite match up to expectations. Occasionally, the storyline either becomes so ridiculous or rushed that missing one line leaves the show distorted for a few moments. We've journeyed with Jeremy for two hours as he battles his inner thoughts and his SQUIP to then be diluted with red Mountain Dew in seconds. And for all the cool projection designs by Alex Basco Koch, a lack of set made scenes feel lost to the vastness of the Shaftesbury.
If Gen Z were a musical, it would definitely be Be More Chill. It's a kaleidoscopic delve into a world where people willingly let computing processors roam free; there's even messages about the implications of social media overindulgence and being "Patient Zero... cough." However the musical often comes across as a sugary representation of Japanese cartoons and implausible Netflix high school dramas. That being said, Be More Chill is a musical for the kids that deem themselves uncool, the young adults that never fit in at high school, and the adults who think they're still a part of the younger crowd.
Photo credit: Be More Chill company (Photo by Matt Crockett)
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