Be More Chill – Great Production, Bad Script


Playbill main cover image. Image courtesy Rambunctious Theatre Production.

(This review contains minor spoilers from Be More Chill)

Be More Chill is this year’s high school musical. It follows the story of Jeremy, a social outcast and loner, who ingests a powerful supercomputer in a quest to become more popular and win the love of Christine. Over the course of the play Jeremy learns the importance of friendship, the dangers of mountain dew, and the importance of self-confidence, while visiting such exotic locales as halloween parties, play rehearsal, and school hallways. The musical features excellent acting, effects, and set design, but suffers from a script that makes about as much sense as the Jungle Book read backwards and writing that belongs in an R-rated movie.

Overall, the production of the musical was incredible. The actors do a great job, all executing at a high level. The ensemble works well to add to the production and is also excellent. The complexity and quality and choreography is matched by the impressive vocals from the main cast, as well as the ensemble. I especially liked I Love Play Rehearsal, Michael in the Bathroom, and The Pants Song. However, for the most part, the songs aren’t memorable and are sometimes hard to understand, making repeated lines far more noticeable. The Pitiful Children suffered with this especially.

The entire production was a joy to watch. The lighting, costumes, set, and choreography all come together to form a constantly changing cornucopia of colors and ideas. The lighting especially is fabulous; utilizing everything from silhouetting spotlights to room covering strobes. The set design is also fantastic, primarily using smartly designed reversible walls to frame scenes. It’s clear that thought and effort was put into making the production work as well as possible. 

Sadly, the script itself is the greatest hindrance to the musical’s success. Beyond the often profane language, which I can mostly excuse, the script is rampantly degenerate, the clearest cut example being Do You Wanna Hang. Further, the jokes are grossly unfunny in every sense. With that said, the play does have its moments, with The Pants Song making use of its gag effectively. Aside from that, there are a few other good jokes. The best jokes are the ones that aren’t gross, and are either silly or, in the case of the theatre sign-up list, true. 

The musical is based on a young adult novel of the same name, and you can tell by the style and quality of the writing. The writing, beyond its gross elements, suffers deeply from the plot’s continuous nonsense. Characters act in ways that go beyond rationality, especially at the end when actions happen without any logical cause, driving the plot forward at the expense of reason, logic, and character integrity. The story also suffers from a need to truncate interactions from the longer-form novel to a two-hour production. Jeremy goes from zero to hero seemingly instantly, and, especially in Do You Wanna Ride?, characters go from looking at him with disgust to gratuitous affection with near instantaneous speed. This is not how high schoolers behave, but it is how YA authors think they do.

Thematically the story is also a mess. Without going too far into spoilers, the resolution does little to explain why Jeremy’s choices were wrong and, due to the confused nature of the plot, leaves the viewer unsure as to what is happening at all. Ultimately, the story’s only effective theme is the importance of seeing other people as they are, and not as lesser for their social status. The concept of not judging other people by their appearance/social standing is also included, but over the course of the musical, several of those assumptions prove accurate, thus rendering the theme confused and weak. 

In sum, this is a fantastic production of a not-great musical. I’d recommend seeing it, but only grudgingly, and only if you fall into a category not outlined in the below content warning.

CONTENT WARNING: I don’t recommend bringing your grandmother, anyone under the age of 16, or anyone with a strong sense of decency. If you fall into any of those categories, do yourself a favor and go watch Clifford instead. Otherwise, the excellent quality of the production makes it worth seeing.

The play has three more showings, one on Friday and two more on Saturday, you can buy tickets here: