Bright and fun, this incredible musical feels like a combination of films like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World to bring a new edge to the high school comedy.
With original music and lyrics written by Joe Iconis, the show is based on a 2004 novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini. The story follows Jeremy, a loser who doesn’t want to be a loser anymore, so he takes a pill which tells him how to be cool. Suddenly he has a Squip in his brain, played marvellously by Stewart Clarke. So cool in his demeanour, we want him like the other characters do, feeling larger than life. It’s an interesting concept, and one I’ve never seen done in this format. We either have sci-fi or teen dramas, and if we do have a mix, it’s never done in this brilliant and comical way. As well as trying to fit in, Jeremy wants to find love, but it is portrayed to us in the least atypical way possible, something that I really enjoyed seeing. I’m over the same stories told again and again, so to be given it in this electric new way is wonderful. Played by Scott Folan, Jeremy must keep the audience hooked for the entirety of the show and his passion shone through each time I saw it. We love Jeremy, feel for him, and want him to be the best that he can be, and he did an incredible job of playing someone real, in a way playing all of us.
The show premiered off Broadway in 2018 and has been doing a 10-week run on London’s West End, something that I have been to see twice now. I love the films that I previously compared it to, so to know that this treat of a musical exists really excites me. Set in a few locations, we are transported to these places through a simple set design, using a neon screen as a backdrop that displays school lockers and shopping centre graphics that add to what’s happening. It emphasises this idea of technology and being able to see inside the character’s heads, and it really pulled me into the story and feel excited by the lights and where the characters might end up next.
As well as an exciting backdrop, we are greeted with songs that capture the thoughts and feelings of people growing up and not knowing what to do. The score has been Tony Award-nominated and has been circling around my head since last sitting in The Shaftesbury Theatre to hear them. My favourite is one that fizzes with talent and goes in detail into teenage emotions of love and loss, and that is Michael in the Bathroom. Like all musicals, there are hints of songs throughout others, allowing us to come full circle in the story which I really feel works especially well in this show, but Michael in the Bathroom is a beautiful song that stands out against the others. Performed by Blake Patrick Anderson, his voice is such a standout and one I was always so excited to hear on stage. His character of Michael Mell was happy to be a loser compared to his best friend Jeremy, and his energetic performance matched with a powerful voice really did show off how good he is.
This is a show I want to see again and again, really letting us live a high school fantasy and seeing the sci-fi genre in a cool, new way. I will definitely be reading the original novel and singing all the songs of course. Because I want to, those thoughts are mine and definitely not from a Squip. Definitely.