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An energetic contemporary pop musical
Bullying, teen angst and AI are shown to be a formidable combination in The Regal's way-too-short season of Be More Chill, directed by Kenney Ogilvie. Featuring a youthful and energetic cast, this production manages to be simple, yet impactful.
Set in what looks like the average American high school, Be More Chill focuses on an average teenage boy, Jeremy, who desperately wishes he was more 'chill', particularly so he can impress the quirky, drama-loving girl of his dreams, Christine.
Both Jeremy and his best friend Michael are ruthlessly bullied by the popular crowd until Jeremy gets himself a SQIUP – a supercomputer implanted in his brain - that tells him what to do and what to say to impress people. But does the SQUIP really have Jeremy's best interests at heart, or is there an ulterior motive at play?
Director Kenney Ogilvie has cast the spread of characters exceptionally well and his quirky sense of humour shines through in the mood of the play, from hilarious crew moments in scene changes to nuanced character details smattered throughout the performance.
Amanda Jenkins' musical direction is tight and energetic – perfect for the pop-rock score. The vocal performances are overall strong and ensemble numbers are impressive. Choreography by Tracey Rassmusen demonstrates why she is one of the most dynamic and interesting choreographers to watch on the Sydney musical theatre scene.
Sam Hamilton leads the cast as the hapless Jeremy Heere, perfectly embodying the teenager who wishes he was cool. He demonstrates his acting chops through-out and his vocal performance is similarly strong. As his best friend, Michael, Vincent Huynh is endearing and cuts a sympathetic figure. Vocally, he strains a bit in the show's most famous song, Michael in the Bathroom, but his character work is on point. The two friends' number Two-Player Game is a highlight of the show.
As the drama-geek, Christine, Katie Vials exudes girl-next-door charm with a sweet voice and some good comedic moments. The trio of popular girls, played by Jamieson Raabe, Emily Moudanidis and Dani Caruso, adds great colour and personality to the school troupe and show that they can hold their own when it comes to vocals and choreography.
Byron Leitch has the bully character of Rich Goranski down, with a great, dangerous energy as he prowls around the stage. Vocally, there are some challenges at points, but his character work makes these easily forgivable and his dancing is electric.
In their joint role as the SQUIP, Hannah Barn and Joseph Nalty are a unique combination that works exceptionally well together. They teeter between suave and friendly to menacing and malicious and they tag team extremely well. Hannah Barn is particularly impressive vocally, with a high belt to die for. Both actors are also remarkable dancers.
Joe Dinn demonstrates a strong singing voice and comic timing in his eleventh-hour number The Pants Song. Rounding out the main cast is Daniel O'Connell who plays the very weird and borderline creepy teacher, Mr Reyes. O'Connell's performance is so OTT that it's utterly hilarious.
Overall, The Regals should be commended on a tight, well-directed and energetic production featuring young performers who no doubt have a bright future on the musical theatre stage.