Review Roundup: What Did London Critics Think Of BE MORE CHILL?
Be More Chill opened in London last night at The Other Palace! It's based on the groundbreaking novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini, with original music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz.
The cast features Scott Folan as Jeremy Heere, Blake Patrick Anderson as Michael Mell, former SIX Queens Renee Lamb and Millie O'Connell, plus Miracle Chance as Christine Canigula, Stewart Clarke as The Squip, Eloise Davies as Brooke Lohst, James Hameed as Rich Goranski, Miles Paloma as Jake Dillinger, Christopher Fry as Mr Heere and Mr Reyes and Eve Norris, Gabriel Hinchcliffe and Jon Tsouras.
Be More Chill tells the atypical love story of a boy, a girl....and the supercomputer inside the boy's head guiding him every step of the way. The boy is desperately trying to fit in. The girl's longing to be noticed. And the supercomputer just wants to take over the world.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Cindy Marcolina, BroadwayWorld: Iconis's score is a blend of pop and rock with electronic infusions. It's easy to see why the musical quickly turned into a beloved piece of theatre: catchy tunes and relatable lyrics are matched to extravagant characters who are garish and loud in all the right places, but know how to connect with their audience on an empathetic level. They want nothing more than to be accepted and validated.
Arifa Akbar, The Guardian: If the Squip is an internet-age metaphor for drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin, or for the noise of social media, neither of these aspects are driven home with heavy-handedness. They hover delicately around the drama and create an extra layer of anxious meaning. Every cast member shines, both as individual performers and an ensemble. And although they are all recognisable types, they steer just clear of appearing generic for the main.
Claire Allfree, Telegraph: Stephen Brackett's zingy production, some of which takes place inside Jeremy's head, has the feel of a pleasingly cheap arcade computer game, with its whirring video projections and the analogue zap of Joe Iconis's bleepy electro soundtrack.
Theo Bosanquet, The Stage: Joe Iconis' songs are hit and miss; the stand out is Michael in the Bathroom, in which Jeremy's outcasted friend reflects on his newfound loneliness, but others fade quickly in the memory. However Stephen Brackett's production fizzes with feel-good energy and the talented ensemble proves once again that although we may not be originating many musicals this side of the pond, we can certainly perform them with panache.
Jessie Thompson, Evening Standard: It's easy to see why the bleepy bloopy soundtrack is so popular: consolatory lyrics like "I don't wanna be special, I just wanna survive" are Tumblr blog gold. But the appeal doesn't feel much broader than that, each song goes on forever, and the show lapses into solipsism and cliched messages (conformity is bad, guys, don't ditch your mates for the cool people, etc).
Alice Saville, Time Out: 'Dear Evan Hansen' and 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' are proof that you can make musicals about teenage boys that are smart and subtle; 'Be More Chill' isn't exactly an innovative addition to the crowded canon of male coming-of-age stories. But its saving grace is its willingness to have fun. It feels a bit like a high school play, in a good way; in-jokes, visual gags, messy hormone-fuelled energy that sweeps you into its weirdly retro world.
Alex Wood, WhatsOnStage: It's always a fresh feeling seeing an unashamed sci-fi rollick blast its way onto the theatre scene. Joe Tracz's economic, pacy book is full of heart though perhaps patchy on the laughs, somehow managing to make a high school Halloween party more garish than joke-y. He does, however, have a whale of a time re-writing the words to A Midsummer Night's Dream, adding in a few zombie-related embellishments. Most of the female characters don't really get a look-in amidst all the hardcore boyish angst, with gags about boners, bongs and boxer shorts reappearing throughout.