Based on the novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini, Be More Chill is a fun and quirky musical that integrates the effects that technology has on teenagers and the impacts that it can have on their friendships and relationships. It is the story of Jeremy (Dylan Mazurek), an average nerdy boy with a crush, who is trying to navigate the dangerous halls of high school when a classmate, Rich (Luke Peverelle), lets him in on his secret of being cool, his SQUIP (Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor). This super computer is built in the form of a pill, which implants in their brain and tells them what to say and how to act so that they will be more chill.
The first act suffered from some technical difficulties, mainly issues with the microphones but to their credit, the cast continued without flinching. Although not all of the singing was flawless it was generally to a high standard. At times the music was too loud, drowning out the voices of the actors and in a few instances the sound effects didn’t sync up with what was happening on stage but despite these minor issues the audience was enthusiastic and the show was highly enjoyable.
The cast of amateur actors was nonetheless full of talent. Maddy Connolly, who played Christine Canigula (Jeremy’s crush) was utterly charming as the geeky girl who loves theatre. Her song ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ was not only competently sung but also hilariously acted. Eleni Tsombanopoulos has a powerful voice and her cool and calculating performance as the SQUIP who wants to take over the world was remarkable. Her songs ‘Be More Chill’, where the SQUIP is introduced to Jeremy and the audience, and ‘Pitiful Children’ at the climax of the story, stand out as some of the best in the show. Caitlin Stewart who played the role of Mrs. Reyes, the drama teacher who is putting on the production of A Midsummer Nightmare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling with zombies) got many laughs in all of her scenes. Melanie Verhagen is a new addition to Lightbox Productions at the age of 18 and her performance as Jenna Roland was impressive. Jenna is a comparatively small role, as the friend of the popular girls Chloe and Brooke, but requires a big, strong voice, which she delivered. Jessica Mathewes and Kirsten Manuel were hilarious and charismatic in the roles of Brooke and Chloe and their performance of ‘The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set A Fire)’ was highly entertaining. Luke McCaughey (Jeremy’s dad) and Luke Martin (Michael) gained the biggest laughs during ‘The Pants Song’ (I think we can all relate to the line ‘if you love somebody you put your pants on’).
The music of Joe Iconis perfectly captures the experience of being in high school, especially if you didn’t fit in so well and the story contains a cast of characters so diverse that you’d be hard pressed on to find someone to relate to. Despite the fantastical element of having a super computer lodged in his brain telling him what to do, Jeremy is just a typical teenager who just wants to fit in and he endears himself to everyone in the audience.
Lightbox’s rendition of Be More Chill was thoroughly entertaining, charming and compelling. Where it was let down by technical difficulties and a few moments of weak vocals it made up in heart and enthusiasm.