Review: Be More Chill at The Annex

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Catchy and upbeat, Be More Chill displays all of the amazing talent within showstoppers - on stage and behind the scenes. Go and see this show!

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Showstoppers’ Spring show is always a people pleaser; a big name that draws the attention and is a star to always pay attention to in its annual performance calendar. And Be More Chill is no exception. Set during high school, protagonist Jeremy Heere is a bit of a loser (his words, not mine!) but wants to be more than that. He wants to be cool and get the interest of his long-time crush Christine Canigula. So how does he do this? He gets a S.Q.U.I.P (that’s a Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor), which helps him to act correctly. But the technology isn’t as benevolent as it first appeared, and what lengths would Jeremy go to for this new-found popularity??

I’ve been a long-time fan of Be More Chill, so when it was announced as the Spring Show, I knew I had to go and see it. And boy was it a treat!

Jeremy and Michael were amazing; even with prior knowledge of the pair, Will and Ed sell you on their friendship in just a few bars. As a bit of a nerd myself, they were instantly relatable, and the audience as a whole clearly agreed; the lowest point of their friendship in Act Two was marked with gasps, and Michael’s triumphant return was marked by universal cheers by all. Jeremy’s (Will Fieldhouse) slight awkwardness around love interest Christine was completely understandable; who hasn’t acted slightly strange or frozen like a deer in headlights when being addressed by their crush?

Ellen Goggin as Christine embodied the upbeat and light-hearted actress in a way that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. Elegant and clear passion for her craft, I loved the small fourth wall breaks during the play – having the band itself bring her back into the next verse of the song “I Love Play Rehearsal”, or directing the spotlight to her position on stage were classic beats of comedy and I loved them!

The main antagonist of the show is clearly the S.Q.U.I.P (George Gunn), but it’s always been one of my favourite roles in the show – with this being no different! The more robotic side of the Processor was not one I thought to cement its character on, but it worked fantastically well; its detachment to “human error” as it attempts to take over the world, with the electronic facial markings growing in intensity as its power increased. A nice touch! I really liked how the S.Q.U.I.P was kept separate from the rest of the cast, elevated above everything – it cemented the detachment just a little bit more.

From the most restrained role, to the most outgoing and flamboyant. Ms Reyes is a role gender-swapped from the original production, but it made no difference in its reception. Wonderful and melodramatic, Giulia Mubeen was a treat to watch (and makes me wonder why my drama teacher wasn’t like that. So much fun be around and to watch perform).

Rich (Maciek Shasha) was a great addition to the cast for his 11th Showstoppers show, flawlessly showing us the negative impacts the S.Q.U.I.P can have on people – flickering between the “chill” persona it forces upon him, and the reality of the scared student trying to get it out of his head. Give that man some Moutain Dew Red! Kenny Adegbola as Jake Dillinger was cool and collected, musically outstanding and seemed to be having so much fun on stage throughout. Rhiannon Morgan as Chloe Valentine, Beth Mitchell as Brooke Lohst, and Hannah Maskell as Jenna Rolan were all stellar parts, all three leading “The Smartphone Hour” perfectly, capturing all elements of student life and social media goss in the midst of demanding choreography. A special mention goes to Hannah’s high notes during “The Pitiful Children”!

But what good is it praising the show without crediting the production team who put this all together? Musical Producer Molly Ellis took on yet another show, making her fourth appearance as crew this academic year alone. Alex Wareham did a splendid job as director, helped by Lizzy Bajegbo as his assistant director (her first time on a production team!). The credit for the flawless choreography goes to Katie Staines (kudos for adding the dab at the end of “Two-Player Game”), and Kit Grange kept the sheer demand of the tech crew going!

The show itself had small moments here and there that just hinted at something else going on, or a call-back to elsewhere in the production. For instance, “Halloween”‘s major dance segment in the chorus has Rich somewhat out of time with the rest of the school – telling us already that something is wrong between him and the S.Q.U.I.P. Or the melody from “Two-Player Game” coming back during a brief scuffle between Michael and Jeremy. Having Michael and the S.Q.U.I.P at opposing sides of the stage acted similar to the angel and devil on your shoulder dynamic for poor Jeremy.

And you could practically hear everyone’s heart melt at the sight of Mr Heere visiting Jeremy in the finale. Just as impactful was Christine physically pushing past Jeremy to get to Jake at one point during the second act, and instantaneously everyone felt the same gut punch.

It’s always difficult to navigate space on a single, non-elevated stage, and cast made great use of the limited floorplan. In reality, I could see everything important for 99% of the show, with only a small section of “Two-Player Game” not being visible – but it never took away from the immersion. They used height to their advantage, with some stellar lifts and gymnastic elements during “The Smartphone Hour” – courtesy of three Vixens cheerleaders lending their talents to the show.

Outside of the show, I did greatly appreciate the strobe lighting warnings displayed around the room and at the desk – thought I might not need to be aware of them, the two or three segments of flashing lights is something to be aware of if you go to see the show.

In conclusion, I could have stayed fine and cool and chill, but honestly? That wouldn’t do this show justice; it is so good, with amazing beats of comedy and toe-tapping beats.

Be More Chill is performing at The Annex March 4-7th. You can book tickets on the Showstoppers website. 

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Second-year archaeology & history student and Culture Editor 2019/20. Loves archery and Assassin's Creed, and still hoping to one day find the doorway to Narnia.

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