by Lorie Lewis Ham
It is a rare thing to see a show produced locally that is currently on Broadway. Be More Chill is currently on Broadway, and just opened this past weekend at the Selma Arts Center.
Be More Chill is a musical based on the 2004 novel of the same name written by Ned Vizzini. This is a very unique and unusual show that is kind of a mix between High School Musical, Heathers, and science fiction. High school junior and social outcast Jeremy Heere (Ian Jones) lives with his divorced father and just wants to survive high school, but also has a deep desire to do more than survive. He also wants to catch the attention of the girl he has a crush on, Christine Canigula (Teya Juarez). His best friend Michael Mell (Josh Plowman) is a fellow outcast and he encourages Jeremy that they will survive because they have each other.
Trying to be braver, Jeremy sees Christine signing up for the school play and decides to sign up as well. When alone with her at rehearsal, he can’t find the nerve to tell her how he feels and he learns that she is in love with Jake Dillinger (Daniel LaJune), one of the popular boys. After rehearsal, Jeremy is confronted by the school bully, Rich Goranski (Gio Adaoag), who tells Jeremy there is a way to become popular—the same way that he became popular. Rich took a pill with a “super quantum unit Intel processor” or SQUIP, which is basically a computer that implants itself inside the user’s brain and tells the user what to do and say. Rich suggests that Jeremy buy one from him in order to become cooler, or “be more chill.”
Jeremy ends up getting the SQUIP against Michael’s better judgment and immediately his life begins to change—but is it really for the better? When the pill kicks in this is where we meet The SQUIP (Sean Hopper), who oddly resembles Keanu Reeves. He tells Jeremy he is only in his mind, and that he will tell him what to do to become popular. From there things get very complicated and this story takes a very scary turn.
The story is relatable (except for the SQUIP), funny, and at times frightening. Ian plays the geeky Jeremy perfectly, as well as the transformation to a more popular version of himself. Ian is an excellent actor with a beautiful voice. Josh, as his loyal friend Michael, is adorable, and basically ends up saving the day. His song, “Michael in the Bathroom” is my favorite song—who hasn’t hidden out in a bathroom at a party. Randall Kohlruss, once again playing multiple roles as he did in Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, is flat out hilarious and provides the show with much of its humor as he plays Jeremy’s father, the high school drama teacher, and others. His song, “The Pants Song”, is so funny! Teya Jaurez as Christine has a lovely voice and is a wonderfully relatable theatre geek. I loved her song, “I Love Play Rehearsal.”
Sean Hopper as The SQUIP was definitely a favorite part of the show for me. When he walked out in his black leather pants and black, billowing trench coat my first thought was David Tennant’s Dr. Who. Sean’s deep voice makes the SQUIP’s lines and songs that much more ominous and chilling as he convinces Jeremy to “Be More Chill” and cross lines that he never would have done on his own–hurting those who care most about him.
This is a very talented cast and all aspects of the show are perfectly brought together by director Miguel Gastelum. Dominic Grijalva provides the graphics that set the perfect tone for this sci-fi, rock, high school musical. And unlike Heathers, this show has a positive ending and message.
I highly recommend seeing this show-how often can you see a show that is currently on Broadway without going to New York? The story is compelling and inspiring. The music is fun, the cast is amazing—it’s just an all around wonderful package! Keep in mind this show is rated PG-13-there is quite a bit of talk about sex (they are teenagers) and some strong language.
Be More Chill is on stage at the Selma Arts Center at 1935 High St. in Selma, CA through July 27, so hurry and get your tickets as they have been selling out. You can purchase tickets online on their website or call their box office at (559) 891-2238.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can check the podcast out on iTunesApple Podcasts and Google Play, and also on podbean. Sean Hopper is featured in two episodes of the podcast!