This review is from ‘Be More Chill’s run at The Other Palace in February 2020. It transfers to the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2021.
This Broadway import is a bit of a puzzler. Apparently, it’s a new musical-theatre phenomenon that’s been winning the hearts of digital native Gen Zers. But its retro story, aesthetic, sounds and social politics are all stuck somewhere between the invention of Pac-Man and the release of Green Day’s ‘Dookie’.
In the tradition of any number of John Hughes flicks, ‘Be More Chill’ centres on Jeremy (Scott Folan), a sweaty, gawky teen who wants to shed his nerdiness and virginity like they’re old Twinkie wrappers. First, he lines up to audition for drama club, in pursuit of acting-obsessed fellow teenager Christine, played by the wonderfully named Miracle Chance, who outquirks Amelie with lamb-like twitches of her limbs and uncalled-for witch impressions. Then he takes a magic pill called a Squip, which comes from Japan: cue a rock number titled ‘It’s from Japan’, because that’s how this show deploys its many retro-tinged songs, obviously and relentlessly.The Squip is a pretty seductive concept for nerdy teens; it gives you a kind of personalised chill advisor that only you can see, who tells you how to dress, how to act, and all about the deepest insecurities of the popular kids who seem so normal. Pretty much as soon as it rolls on to the scene (disguised in a glowing shoebox) it’s also clear that it’s deeply evil: a stand-in for Adderall, weed, or soci