WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE? Other Palace RUNTIME: 135 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
WHEN? 12/2, press night 18/2 runs to 3/5/20 UPDATE: This production opens at Shaftesbury Theatre for 10 weeks from 30 June 2021 Tickets
Would you pop a pill to Be More Chill?
- Read on for reasons including how the power of social media was behind the show’s Broadway run
Original musical Be More Chill is about US teenage geek Jeremy who wants to impress classmate Christine and is offered the chance to access a super computer/imaginary friend by popping a pill by bully James.
It was a surprise US hit after running briefly in New Jersey in 2015, closing and then its cast recording gaining popularity via social media platforms, propelling it first off, and then on Broadway.
Venue the Other Palace is fast becoming the place to see new hip US musicals which are cults in the making in the same vein as Heathers and monsta winner Eugenius, which may yet repeat the Be More Chill closing early/social media word-of-mouth formula for success.
The themes of the piece (an outsider betraying those he loves, choosing the wrong path and ultimately … well, that would be telling) remain universal.
We felt the first half was a little long and the 80s-sounding, computer bleeps of the soundtrack never quite moved us musically until a powerful run of songs in the shows impressive second half.
We’ve raved about Blake Patrick Anderson before (Closer To Heaven, Above The Stag) and here he performs the socks off one of the most memorable outsider anthems Michael In The Bathroom.
Renee Lamb has such a powerful voice that first we felt she was a little under-used here but gossipy song The Smartphone Hour is thrilling, memorable and performed irresistibly.
Jeremy’s father doesn’t figure too much although his number The Pants Song is fun and uplifting. Millie O’Connell, Eloise Davies and Miracle Chance all make the most of their roles, with the latter’s I Love Play Rehearsal especially endearing.
We can see the Dear Evan Hansen and Little Shop Of Horrors parallels that the pre-show publicity points out but for us Be More Chill is very much its own musical. We warmed to Scott Folan’s central character and the scene when he commits to acting class was especially funny.
Like a true cult entertainment, it proves initially difficult to swallow but we predict many will go with it and if you do it’s exactly the sort of musical that people will make return visits to.
This preview received a rapturous standing ovation, a sign that Be More Chill looks set to be with us when the weather warms up – and perhaps even longer should the West End melt to its charms.