“Entertaining from start to finish”: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This review is dedicated to Harriet Harding and her Whoopi Cushion costume
All photos credit to Bitsy Pout
Going into ‘Be More Chill’ blind, with no pre-existing judgements, allowed me to enjoy the show to its full potential without comparison or expectation. ‘Be More Chill’ is your classic underdog story, full of American losers and cheerleaders. Think of your favourite 90s or early 2000s teen drama movie, but just add songs and Japanese technology. ‘Be More Chill’ is very self-aware, and the cast executed the stereotypical characters strongly and without fault, so much so that the audience fell in love with the mean girls, the geeks and even the drama teacher. It reminded me a lot of ‘Not Another Teen Movie’ but it had its own special twist with the addition of the SQUIP, played perfectly by George Gunn. Gunn, although only static up on the balcony, had a very powerful stage presence as the ominous SQUIP or the Keanu Reeves impersonator. To portray a computer without falling into the trap of being too robotic, Gunn was able to find this perfect balance between embodying computer software and allowing enough movement to remind the audience that the SQUIP was still a very real threat to Jeremy and his fellow class mates.
From the moment ‘Be More Chill’ began, there was automatic laughter from the audience, immediately getting them onside. As the audience was completely gripped in this world from the start, the cast could afford to fully let lose even more, making their already larger than life characters even bigger. Hannah Maskell who played Jenna Rolan did this to perfection. Every time Maskell was on stage, the audience was drawn to her. The ‘OMG’ moment was one of my favourites and she always had me laughing with her amazing facial expressions and on point deliveries of comedic lines. The cast always nailed the moments of comedy and can afford to project a little more sometimes when speaking. However, the audience was constantly captivated by each scene and there was never a dull moment.
For every musical that I go to see, there’s always a moment when a part of me wants to get up and join them on stage. The ‘Halloween’ song was that moment. I think the choreographic balance of having the cast dance as you would at a party or on a night out was an excellent way of giving a sense of reality to this musical, making the characters even more relatable. It was also great that there was the addition of cheerleading in ‘The Smartphone Hour’. The choreographer, Katie Staines, obviously was playing to the cast strengths which made the ensemble dances very entertaining. The ensemble was a strong part of the show, and it can be difficult with an ensemble this big, but they were very memorable. Each member of the ensemble had their own little moment. Harriet Harding in a Whoopi cushion costume in particular will be a moment I’ll never forget. The main characters were not the only unforgettable members of the show, which I think I think speaks highly of the whole cast.
Will Fieldhouse as Jeremy Heere gave us a loveable protagonist and instantly within that first few seconds of that urge to get his porn to load on his phone, had the audience hooked in his ‘everyman story’. Ed Patience as Michael Mell, equally had the audience laughing with his kicks and punches instead of dancing, which emphasised that this was a character who was constantly living inside a video game. Patience’s ‘Michael in the Bathroom’ made me want to go home and listen to the song over and over. Fieldhouse and Patience, did an excellent job at portraying the geek leads of the show, their accents and body language never slipping and their buddy relationship was very heart warming. Arguably theirs was the real love story. That or Mr. Heere and his pants. There was a very loud gasp when Felix Stevens entered as Mr. Heere in a pair of blue jeans, clearly the ultimate DILF.
Beth Mitchell and Rhiannon Morgan were also very entertaining as the classic mean girls, almost so much that they were likeable, and as audience member you found yourself routing for them. Maciek Shasha as Rich embodied the American ‘jerk’ perfectly, especially while peeing, very alpha male. An honourable mention must be given to Giulia Mubeen as Ms. Reyes for her eccentric drama school teacher impersonation. The mad arm waving and crazy up and down voice was hilarious. Kenny Adegbola as Jake was also unforgettable, and that Prince line could not have been delivered anymore flawlessly. Ellen Goggin as Christine did a great impression of Sharpay Evans signing her name on the drama school play sign-up sheet. Goggin reminded me of Rachel Berry from Glee with her wide-eyed eagerness for ‘play rehearsal’, but had enough balance of softness and innocence to make Christine the ideal match for Jeremy.
The production team for this show must be commended as they have clearly pulled out all the stops for this hilarious musical. Alex Wareham as director, with the help of Lizzy Bajegbo, has evidently worked hard to give the audience a cast who work seamlessly well together. Molly Ellis as musical director has done an excellent job at ensuring the songs were enjoyable and clear as they were an important part of keeping the story moving. But you could not fault a single cast member on the sheer strength of their voices. Kit Grange and their lighting squad did a fantastic job at giving the us the scary flashing red and green, in keeping with the themes of the show, effectively portraying the threatening aura of the SQUIP. It is clear how much hard work and detail the production team put into this show as it was so flawlessly executed by the cast.
‘Be More Chill’ had that wonderful balance of comedic and dramatic moments, allowing the audience to relate to the characters as well as being captivated in the tense scenes. There were almost too many favourites to name. ‘Be More Chill’ was entertaining from start to finish and has instantly become one of my favourite musicals that I have seen showstoppers put on.
By Millie Pike