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Be More Chill

Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg

Jayde Mitchell (left) and Kevin Corpuz in "Be More Chill." 

Like countless teenagers before him, Jeremy (Jayde Mitchell) is unhappy about being viewed as a loser. And he’s even more upset that Christine (Grace Langford), the girl of his dreams, seems forever beyond his reach.

Jeremy desperately wants to be cool. And he gets that chance in “Be More Chill,” the nonstop hilarious musical running through June 22 in a New Line Theatre production.

Based on the young-adult novel by Ned Vizzini, the show plops us down in Jeremy’s world, where he’s determined to take his place among the cool kids — possibly at the expense of his friendship with fellow nerd Michael (Kevin Corpuz).

Jeremy’s success depends on a drug, one that — to quote an old Huey Lewis & The News song — won’t make him nervous and wondering what to do. Under its influence, he’s transformed into a guy who’s eminently chill.

But taking the drug means Jeremy must cede control to the Squip (Dominic Dowdy-Windsor), who looks a lot like Morpheus, the character portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the “Matrix” films.

Which raises a question: Is having the Squip inside your head a reasonable price to pay for popularity?

With music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, book by Joe Tracz and orchestrations by Charlie Rosen, “Be More Chill” is a perfect match for the playfully exuberant New Line style. Co-directors Mike Dowdy-Windsor and Scott Miller establish and explore a groove in which the energetic songs and irreverent humor create an atmosphere of sheer exhilaration.

And the cast is outstanding. Mitchell is thoroughly likable, even when he’s indulging in unlikable behavior. Langford approaches Christine with showbiz panache. And Corpuz, who was terrific in New Line’s recent production of “La Cage aux Folles,” delivers thrillingly on the show-stopper “Michael in the Bathroom.”

The production benefits mightily from music direction by Nicolas Valdez and choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack.

Don’t expect an old-school musical — the sensibility on display is more “Saturday Night Live” than “South Pacific.” But “Be More Chill” — which began a Broadway run in March featuring Eureka actress Katlyn Carlson — will definitely give you a buzz. Teen angst has rarely been so entertainingly outrageous.

Calvin Wilson is theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.