WORTH A LOOK?: ****
RUNTIME: 150 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
WHEN?: Matinee Thursday 29 July, booking to 5 September 2021
When Covid-19 closed theatres in March 2020 this production was booking at the Other Palace until May and we said in our February review that: ‘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.’
- Read on for reasons including what this West End transfer looks and feels like in a post-lockdown world
Well things didn’t quite work out like that clearly but 18 months later and the weather has warmed up and Be More Chill is enjoying that West End run ahead of & Juliet returning to this venue.
The original cast from the Other Palace made the transfer but Millie O’Connell (returning to Rent, Hope Mill Theatre Manchester) and Renee Lamb make way for Grace Mouat and Nathan Ing next month.
We caught Heathers – The Musical at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and Be More Chill is essentially a present-day version of US High School life instead this time seen through the lens of a geekier male protagonist who is bullied, has a pot-smoking best friend with 2 mums, enrols in drama class to be closer to the girl he has a crush on and is persuaded to swallow a super computer that advises him to how to act.
If those last few words read ridiculously it should be explained that this is a story that you very much need to surrender yourself to if you want to get the most out of it and, should you do so, there is a great deal to enjoy.
Our initial preview review didn’t focus too much on Folan as Jeremy which was unfortunate because it’s his transformation to charismatic acting heartthrob and then to something a little more rounded, less self-assured but believable that is this show’s story.
Miracle Chance as the object of his affections is a similarly well-drawn character with her own traits and we loved the quirkiness of her signature song explaining 1 of her favourite things, I Love Play Rehearsal.
We previously focussed on Anderson‘s performance as best friend Michael and he once again proves how likeable and charismatic he can be while effortlessly delivering both voice and choreo. Against some tough competition, we’d say his Michael In The Bathroom is still the show stand-out alongside Two-Player Game, expressing his friendship with Folan (both pictured above).
Giving it a strong run for its money is Jenna Dolan’s gossipy and 60’s Motown girl group-influenced The Smartphone Hour (sung here by Lamb) which is an absolute bop and The Pants Song, sung by Anderson and Christopher Fry as Jeremy’s father, as they combine to save him.
Other highlights include the conclusion of bully Rich Goranski’s character arc played by a strong James Hameed which gave us a warm glow inside. O’Connell’s Chloe was larger-than-life and understudy Gabriel Hinchliffe made for a convincing Jake.
If you enjoyed Heathers, which similarly made the leap from Other Palace to West End, we’d recommend Be More Chill.