Last year we saw the musical Be More Chill at The Shaftesbury Theatre, based on Ned Vizzini’s novel of the same name. I went into this musical knowing literally nothing about it, but the hubby did make me listen to a couple of songs to convince me to go watch it.
The musical is about unpopular outcast Jeremy who only wants to be popular and be with his crush Christine, the quirky girl who has almost zero inhibitions.
To become popular ie more chill, Jeremy takes a SQUIP (Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor), a supercomputer pill that enters his brain and tells him what to do – it’s from Japan. And this is where things get weirder, funnier, and somewhat futuristic.
Unsurprisingly, there are the stereotypical American high school characters: a couple of unpopular kids, the quirky girl, the popular kids, and the bully. But each actor/ singer did really well in standing out and the musical actually goes a little deeper after the interval to try and flesh out the characters to make them more 3D.
There are some good songs, and some parts are truly funny, especially the electric chip SQUIP dance. I’d say the better songs are in the second half, like the catchy Michael in the Bathroom and the really well done The Social Media Hour/ Rich set a Fire. It’s oddly futuristic set and feel really fit in with the supercomputer pill trying to take over Jeremy’s mind.
There weren’t many props on stage, instead there were screen projections that show school classrooms and mall settings; again, enhancing the futuristic feel. There were really cool looking costumes, and I loved how as the story progresses, the SQUIP costume got more and more elaborate – like it was upgrading.
There was a play within a play, called Midsummer Nightmare Zombie, which had really fun and bright green costumes – again enhancing the futuristic feel of the whole performance.
Its tagline is “a rallying cry for self belief”. Throughout the musical there is a subtle message of being yourself, making your own decisions, and not letting other people tell you what to do or how to be. Essentially, being who you are and being happy and comfortable with that.
That’s the point of the character of Christine, the quirky girl who has almost zero inhibitions. Yes, she’s quirky, but she’s comfortable with it – and also popular. She’s not afraid to be herself. Though, when you’re first introduced to her, she sings that she prefers school plays because they’re scripted and she knows what happens next.
Michael, Jeremy’s best friend, is an interesting character because he is ok with not being popular and just lives his own life. There were similar messages in Everybody Loves Jamie too, but this musical’s use of technology and supercomputers and just the whole futuristic feel makes it over the top in a hilarious fashion.
The two popular kids, Chloe and Brooke, were interesting: one just wanted to be seen, whilst the other just wanted to be liked. It was a standard high school girl drama with an added sense of toxicity (Chloe purposefully cheats with Brooke’s boyfriend) which was a little too quickly and neatly resolved in the end.
All in all, I felt it was a fun and funny high school-set musical, with a very subtle message that didn’t want to push to the audience too much. Things are neatly tidied up in the end, but I suppose you have to suspend your sense of disbelief – there is of course a supercomputer chip from Japan that tells you how to be more chill.