Tuesday, April 9, 2019

THEATER REVIEW: “Be More Chill” @ Playhouse Square by Laura Kennelly

Jahir Hipps

Fri 4/5-Sun 4/7

Yes, it’s possible to think up a fresh musical about high school! Evidence? Be More Chill, the latest Baldwin Wallace University and Playhouse Square collaboration directed by Jon Martinez. Those lucky enough to see one of the four sold-out performances at the Allen Theatre laughed and empathized with the struggles of poor Jeremy Heere, an insecure high school student who accepts a magic pill that (as it turns out) offers a popularity that is too good to be true.
Be More Chill gives a funny, sometimes raunchy look at high school adventures. This rollicking play with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, and a book by Joe Tracz drawn from the novel by Ned Vizzini, has something for anyone who has ever been in high school or will be. (That would be everyone, right?) The cast makes sci-fi paranoia seem both real and ridiculous — and very very musical.
Outstanding dance routines executed (seemingly) perfectly by the agile cast of fourteen BW students moves action from school to social events, and back to school. They also shift the elements of the set, consisting of moveable units, without missing a beat.
Jahir Hipps as our hero Jeremy Heere brilliantly morphs from nerd extraordinaire to life of the party, to popular guy (and back). Amy Keum as Christine Canigula, the girl Jeremy has a crush on, delights with her bouncy optimism. Warren Egypt Franklin as a visible manifestation of the Squip (a tiny supercomputer) makes sci-fi believable as he gradually takes over Jeremy’s life.
Others in the ensemble include Enrique Miguel, Jake Slater, Charlie H. Ray, Shelby Griswold, Nadina Hassan, Veronica Otime, Marcus Martin, Nick Cortazzo, Courtney Hausman, Andrew Nelin, and Gillian Jackson Han. Keyboard player Matthew Webb conducted the small band.
Be More Chill, which has become a cult favorite since it first appeared in a New Jersey regional theater in 2015, just opened this March on Broadway, so if you would like to see it, it’s still to be found.
BOTTOM LINE: Cleveland hit it lucky with this fresh musical delight. I doubt it’s possible to be more chill anywhere, even NYC.

[Written by Laura Kennelly]

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