Be More Chill, Stewart Clarke (The Squip), Scott Folan (Jeremy Heere), Eloise Davies (Brooke Lohst) Photo Credit: Matt Crockett
Venue: The Other Palace Theatre
Performance Date: 18 February 2020
Reviewer: Leyla Demirel
Star Rating: ★★★★★
Following the world premiere in 2015 and popular runs both on and off-Broadway, Be More Chill is making its UK premiere at the Other Palace Theatre in London. The show focuses on Jeremy, a nerdy teenage boy who longs to fit in and get the girl of his dreams. Upon taking a pill which leads to a supercomputer (squip) and a man in his head telling him what to do, everything changes, leading to the ultimate question: how far is he willing to go to fit in and find love?
Taking every stereotypical character found in high school and putting them in the least stereotypical show, Be More Chill is different in every way. With many billing it as the love-child of Dear Evan Hansen and Little Shop of Horrors this feels like a show that will appeal to science-fiction fans, those that enjoy an angst-ridden tale and anyone in between.
Although initially, the plot may seem far-fetched and laugh-a-minute; but the issues of struggling to fit in, wanting to be popular and thinking you’re not good enough can, at times, be hard-hitting. The climactic scene is, in particular very poignant demonstrating that sometimes the demons in one’s own head are the hardest to conquer.
With music and lyrics by Tony-nominated Joe Iconis, and direction by Stephen Brackett, Be More Chill features catchy songs. Stylistically they may sound upbeat but delve a little deeper and there is actually some real hidden depth and meaning to the lyrics that help to bring the lovable characters in the show to life. Chase Brock’s slick, fast-paced and clean choreography mirrors the score with energetic and full on dance numbers that really showcase the talent of the cast.
It is abundantly clear that attention has been paid to every detail within this production. Not only is the story itself and what is unfolding on stage engaging, but the visuals and sound design complete the show and making it a feast for all the senses.
The costumes, designed by Bobby Frederick Tilley II, are a spectacle in themselves, taking elements from current fashion trends and blending them with futuristic themes. The Squip’s costume is one of particular interest – changing ever so slightly as the show progresses to mirror the mood of the plot.
Indeed, as the Squip becomes a more dominant part of Jeremy’s life, the technical aspects of the show really come in to play. Through the use of clever lighting and sound, designed by Tyler Micoleau and Ryan Rumery respectively, these technical aspects are able to replicate a visual interpretation of what it is like in Jeremy’s head at moments in the show. These added details work to enhance the production and really plays up to the science fiction theme.
The energy and enthusiasm from the cast is heart-warming and in such an intimate venue as The Other Palace, it really has an impact. The intimacy makes a big difference and plays a pivotal role in maintaining the pace and keeping the show engaging throughout.
Scott Folan portrays Jeremy excellently, being able to transition the character from the awkward teenage boy at the start of the show to the more confident character he develops into. Taking on the role of The Squip, Stewart Clarke is fantastic, not only displaying a strong stage presence but matching this with a voice that demands to be heard whenever he is on stage.
The nuances and fine details in Be More Chill have paid off in abundance. Everything has been thought about, and the long wait for the London transfer of this Broadway production has been worth it. The weird and quirky nature of the show makes it stand out against other musicals currently on offer. Combined with the staging and the wider design, this production is a classic example of how the magic of theatre is able to tell a story and transport audiences to another time, world or place. Be More Chill will in true squip style, will surely remain in audiences’ heads long after they leave the theatre.
Runs until: Sunday 3 May