Be More Chill.
Old Nick Company Summer School
Playhouse Theatre, Hobart
February 14, 2020
Old Nick Company's 2020 summer school production of Broadway’s recent smash hit musical Be More Chill; is as bright, colourful, energetic and fun as its score suggests it should be.
It begins like all good High School drama fare; With Jeremy Heere, a bit of a loser/geek, wanting desperately to be noticed by his crush Christine, an equally dorky, but just that slightly bit cooler, drama nerd. Confronted by his lack of “Chill," and the school bully, Rich Goranski, he is persuaded to invest in a Squip, a tiny super computer the size of a pill, that implants itself into his brain and teaches him how to “Be More Chill." The show then takes us on his journey through quite confronting experiences with the popular kids leading ultimately to him conquering the school social ladder.
But this is no ordinary high school drama however, as the Squip gets more powerful he begins his plans for world and school domination using his control over Jeremy to do it.
This is a show that is brilliantly tongue in cheek and doesn’t take itself too seriously. As Director Mikaela Campbell says “The very simple, yet often elusive, message that “you are enough" sits at the heart of the production" This is a show that champions the introvert, and the self conscious teenager who believes happiness comes from popularity. This takes that concept of belief, and flat out tells you how silly it is.
Campbell's direction is fluid and fun and blends the high octane dance sequences and scenic transitions together to have a piece that doesn’t seem to slow down. Her casting is great, and its such a treat to be able to watch young actors shine with some really fun, energetic character work.
Jacob Golding as Jeremy, begins with a sort of haphazard energy that builds by the shows climax, but he draws us into the shy, anxious teenager's plight that we rise along with him. Elowen Killian-Bridley's Christine Canigula is an absolute joy to watch whenever she is on stage, her frenetic, almost cartoonish energy prevalent from her very first moment on stage and is particularly hilarious during her “I Love Play Rehearsal.”
Hugh Gable delivers an emotionally powerful rendition of Michael In The Bathroom in Act 2, which got the biggest applause of the night, his soaring vocals complimented his beautifully emotional heartache at losing his best friend, and the audiences empathy for his character was obvious. Mitchell Williams’ “The Squip" and Alex Tye's classic douchebag Jock, Jake, also stood out from an overall strong ensemble of actors.
Jacquie Coad's choreography was strong and used the ensemble well, however I would have loved to see more unique ways the ensemble and choreography was used to help to further enhance the story. Choreography can really be helpful in symbolism and representation of satire on stage and this production has some very dark and biting satire that I unfortunately think was a bit of a missed opportunity. However, being a school production, it is easy to forgive the show for not taking a slightly darker route. Regardless, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the show at all, as each dance number is imbued with so much fun and energy. They fill the stage with colour and shows off the skill of the ensemble and featured ensemble.
The technical design and the production values were visually striking. The set design and video projections helped to enhance the technological aspect of this sci-fi musical comedy to great effect, especially at moments during Smartphone Hour.
Being a major fan of this show, this production delivered the fun I expected from it in spades.
Review by Matt Taylor