Review: The Squips Hit St Louis, "Be More Chill" at New Line Theatre

IMG_7296.JPG
  • Erin Karll, Contributing Critic - St. Louis

St. Louis, MO - New Line Theatre closes its 28th season with a bit of history. Known for producing edgy shows with loyal followings ‘Be More Chill’ was a perfect fit. They secured the rights, and then the show exploded in popularity after a sold-out Off-Broadway run and Broadway transfer. This does not usually happen, but a local theatre is legally doing a show that is also currently running on Broadway.

‘Be More Chill’ is a sci-fi comedy set in a New Jersey high school. Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, we follow the story of ‘Jeremy’ (Jayde Mitchell) who struggles with a need to be popular. His friend ‘Michael’ (Kevin Corpuz) is there for him always. His failed interactions with his crush ‘Christine’ (Grace Langford) begins his journey to be cool. His bully ‘Rich’ (Evan Fornachon) breaks down and tells him about a new item ... from Japan... called a ‘Squip’ (Dominic Dowdy-Windsor) which is a supercomputer that implants itself and tells you how to improve your life. Chaos ensues as ‘Jeremy’ discovers the ‘Squip’s’ true plan.

The chemistry is strong between all the cast. Mitchell plays ‘Jeremy’ with a nervous strength that everyone can remember from their own teen years. His outcries during ‘More Than Survive’ locked in connection with the audience. Corpuz’s ‘Michael’ runs the whole spectrum from charming to heartbreaking. One of the songs that became the shows calling card on its way to Broadway is ‘Michael in the Bathroom,’ and Corpuz is stunning while owning the stage during his performance of this song. Langford’s ‘Christine’ has a beautiful arc as she navigates the high school drama club and everyday teen life. Fornachon as ‘Rich’ gets laughs from the audience. ‘The Squip Song’ was a crowd pleaser. Dominic Dowdy-Windsor plays ‘Squip,’ which is the computer that instructs ‘Jeremy’ to be more chill, with a humor and villainess air.

The set and lighting by Rob Lippert work perfectly with the small cast and black box theatre. Costumes by Sara Porter shined brightly, I loved ‘The Smartphone Hour’ and ‘Halloween Party’ choices the best. With the direction of Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller, the talented cast members bring a funny and charming story to life.

The crowd at the Marcelle Theatre was spilt between loyal fans that helped usher the show from one time regional production to viral internet hit and now a successful Broadway run and those who didn’t know the show and were asking a lot of questions as soon as they walked into the black box theatre. I would recommend this show for those who enjoy pop tunes, teen comedy, and science fiction. It’s upbeat, loud, and rocking.

‘Be More Chill’ plays the Marcelle Theatre until June 22nd. Visit newlinetheatre.com for show information and MetroTix.com for ticket information. Check out #BeMoreChillSTL on twitter for the opening night live tweets.