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Be More Chill review: A giddily glorious explosion of teen angst with real heart

Teen geek Jeremy (a sensational Scott Folan) embodies every disenfranchised outsider when he sings “I’m not the one the story’s ever about”, except, ya’know, this time he is. He has no aspirations to be one of the gleaming alpha kids, adding, “I don’t wanna be a hero, a DeNiro – Joe Pesci is just fine.” Except he is in love with theatre kid Christine (Miracle Chance), who has “very strong feelings about gun control and Spring.” In time-honoured fashion, the poor lad desperately dreams of some way to make her notice him. But is he prepared to sell his soul to do it?

Folan is gloriously, excruciatingly awkward as Jeremy, opening the show shirtless in all his deathly pale and gangly glory, as he hilariously tries to upload porn before school. He beautifully captures that heightened, horrifying swirling adolescent vortex of hormones and hopelessness.

Salvation is at hand when he hears about mysterious black-market “nanotechnology from Japan” that can make even the biggest outcast cool. One dose of Squip, which brilliantly has to be downed with Mountain Dew, installs a supercomputer in his brain that reprogrammes his speech and behaviour.

Stewart Clarke is seductive and sinister as the Squip, overriding all Jeremy’s natural impulses to make him suddenly popular and poised – not just cool but chill.

The show hurtles along with infectiously adolescent energy, the quirky songs and spiky lyrics matched by a large screen backdrop that channels a wonderfully cheesy video-game vibe and often blazes or dims to match Jeremy’s moods.

The entire cast of ten is excellent, selling the story with an irresistible energy that puts many larger productions to shame. Amid all the manic panic of trying to fit in, Jeremy’s devoted best friend Michael shines as the one person who has already made peace with who he is. Blake Patrick Anderson gives an engagingly tender and empathetic performance that fittingly brings the house down on the devastating standout number Michael In The Bathroom.

Be More Chill tackles the enormous themes of teen sexuality and identity in a purposefully dayglow 2-D way. It perfectly parallels a world where the internet has made aspirational conformity even more crushingly omnipotent and utterly meaningless.

Most importantly, the show has a real heart that beats under Jeremy’s bony chest and leaves us all feeling giddily empowered and hopeful by the triumphant end.

BE MORE CHILL IS AT THE SHAFTSBURY THEATRE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 5