When it comes to navigating the dangerous halls of high school, most kids have it rough. There’s your classic tropes of popular kids, jocks, outcasts and nerds. Everyone is struggling to figure themselves out and fit in. The new musical “Be More Chill” isn‘t the first to lambast this hormone-fueled awkwardness and desperation, but it is doing so in a way that’s garnering attention. The show opened on Broadway earlier this year after spending the past couple of years bouncing around the internet as a cult hit, with songs like “Michael in the Bathroom” permeating the mainstream along the way.
Now Drexel has become one of the first schools to stage the cult hit on the college circuit. The production stars Max Gallagher as the lead, Jeremy, a nerdy high school kid who has resigned himself to being a loser alongside his best friend Michael (Will Kraft). He’s also trying his best to deal with his deadbeat dad who refuses to wear pants (Will Poost). In a last ditch effort to turn things around and become cool before leaving school, Jeremy enlists the help of Rich (Jacob Besecker) to get his hands on a Super Quantum Unit Intel Process Unit – or SQUIP (Gary Bowman) – a supercomputer pill that implants in Jeremy’s brain and tells him everything he has to do to be “chill.” With the help of the SQUIP, Jeremy pursues Christine (Maddy Larkin) using Brooke (Alexa Fontecha) and Chloe (Caroline Juelke) and trying to best Jake (Paul Ciaccia III) for Christine’s affection along the way. The forever uninteresting Jenna Rowlan (Liv Shoup) is also there to spread gossip and move the story along.
Though the Broadway production received mixed reviews, “Be More Chill” is a tongue-in-cheek cheesy show that can really thrive in the student and community theatre scenes. It’s a very fun show that just requires a cast that’s willing to have fun and put forth the energy to bring its silliness to life and roll with the moments of teenage awkwardness that spring out.
I feel like I can safely say that Drexel’s production does just that. Sitting in the audience you can feel the energy radiating from the stage. Performances are fueled by quirky dialogue and fun jokes and it’s obvious that the actors are just having fun with the material on stage. Gallagher, Bowman and Ciaccia stand out among the male cast as they embrace the caricature-like nature of their roles, making the show all that more entertaining. Kraft also brings something refreshing to the character of Michael, and his famous ballad “Michael in the Bathroom.” Living up to that performance is tough but he does a good job bringing his own take and personality to his performance, especially in that song.
The big numbers of the show really hit and the choreography, while not terribly elaborate, stays true to previous productions and involves a lot of coordinated movement on the part of the cast that’s both pleasing and fun to watch.
The performances are solid for the most part, there honestly aren’t any noticeable shortcomings. Some of the excessive corniness of Joe Tracz‘s original book can be hit or miss and occasionally cringy but that doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the cast.
The show will run from May 9-12 at the Mandell Theater. It’s worth supporting and promises a nostalgic and slightly terrifying trip back to the days of high school.