The ‘geek musical’ is truly having a moment. With Dear Evan Hansen in the West End, and recent shows including Eugenius!, Loserville and Heathers all hymning the power of nerds, the genre has entered the mainstream thanks in no small part to an army of online acolytes.
This latest Broadway incomer, adapted from a novel by the late Ned Vizzini, tells the story of the socially awkward Jeremy (Scott Folan), who swallows a nanotechnological pill called a ‘Squip’ after being told by his school bully (James Hameed) it will change his prospects overnight.
The Squip manifests as an authoritarian Keanu Reeves lookalike (Stewart Clarke) who begins to control every move Jeremy makes, from the T-shirts he buys to the chat up lines he deploys. Jeremy soon begins to enjoy the female attention he craves, but at the cost of his friendship with his best friend – and fellow nerd – Michael (Blake Patrick Anderson).
The lesson Jeremy learns in the end will hardly come as a surprise – the plot is as predictable as can be, while most of the characters he encounters are thinly-drawn stereotypes. There’s Christine (Miracle Chance), the ultimate object of his affections, whose life is only truly fulfilled when she’s in rehearsals for school plays. Meanwhile Brooke (Eloise Davies) feels like ‘player two’ to her popular best friend Chloe (Millie O’Connell), and Jeremy’s dad (Christopher Fry) spends his days in his dressing gown ever since his wife walked out on him.
Joe Iconis’ songs are hit and miss; the stand out is Michael in the Bathroom, in which Jeremy’s outcasted friend reflects on his newfound loneliness, but others fade quickly in the memory. However Stephen Brackett’s production fizzes with feel-good energy and the talented ensemble proves once again that although we may not be originating many musicals this side of the pond, we can certainly perform them with panache.