Review: Be More Chill

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Be More Chill? Well, I am losing my chill at how great this student musical is…

DULOG’s Be More Chill masterfully takes a familiar story about a nerdy high school student and gives it a fresh and well-worked feel. Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini and with the original score from Joe Iconis, the cast and crew deftly captured the essence of what it means to be a teenager navigating your way through life.

Funny, heartwarming, and with an important message, this musical will have you leaving the Assembly Rooms with a big smile on your face

Directed by Sarah Johnston, the musical follows Jeremy (Bede Capstick) a nerdy high school student who wants to elevate his social status and gain the affection of his crush, Christine (Vivienne Shaw). He is offered the opportunity to take a pill-sized supercomputer (the SQUIB) which is a guaranteed ticket to becoming more popular and less socially awkward. Upon taking the pill, a new voice enters his head (played by Issey Dodd) which starts to dictate his social interactions. However, as he becomes isolated from his former best friend Michael (Samuel Kingsley Jones) and realises that the Squib is forcing him to be somebody he is not, he spirals into despair as he seeks an antidote. 

The story was very endearing and checks all the boxes of American high school conventions – from the loyal best friend to the toilet-dunking school bully with a soft centre deep down. Funny, heart-warming and with an important message, this musical will have you leaving the Assembly Rooms with a big smile on your face.

All the actors convincingly captured the essence of teenage youthfulness and wonder

All the actors convincingly captured the essence of teenage youthfulness and wonder, and was flawless as lead throughout. The vocals across the board were crystal clear and powerful – I would not misplace them on the West End. Other standout performances include that of Vivienne Shaw, who put all inhibitions aside to go all-out in her rendition of Christine’s totally wacky but totally loveable character. was also superb in the role of Michael, bringing an infectious energy to the stage. as Rich also saw some of the best character development of a school bully that I’ve ever seen (if you know, you know.) The ensemble must be applauded for creating a dynamic and lively on-stage atmosphere. The dance choreography appeared to get stronger as the show went on. 

The staging was charming and effective – I particularly liked how the ‘Player 1’ and ‘Player 2’ signs are being used to reinforce the atmosphere. The lighting, designed by Alivia Edwards, was flawless throughout, and the Squib’s underlighting was particularly effective in demonstrating its villainy. The costumes for the Halloween Party scene were fun and creative, and as costume designer did a good job otherwise in visually representing the social status of the characters through costume design. The transitions between the scenes were seamless – you would not think it was opening night. The musical scores were catchy and upbeat, and often had the audience clapping along.

There were some laugh out loud funny moments, with one of my favourite lines being:

“Don’t you care about Shakespeare?”

“The man is dead, let it go.”

The chemistry between castmates was palpable and they didn’t miss a beat. Standout moments include all of the interactions between Jeremy and Christine, Jeremy and Michael’s duet whilst playing video games early in the play, and the ‘The Pants Song’.

If you’re a keen musical-goer, this is not one to miss. With excellent performances from the cast across the board, your step into the Assembly Rooms Theatre actually feels like a step onto the West End. The upbeat live band along with the cast members mean it is a delight to the senses from start to finish. 

Heartwarming and joyful, this musical will leave you with a fuzzy feeling in your chest and a smile on your face. As the Director’s Note says, ‘Of all the many voices in our heads in the modern world, the most important one will always be your own.’

Image: DULOG

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