SELMA – You can’t help but pity Jeremy Heere. He’s not just an awkward teen, he’s a downright social outcast and misfit. He’s got a huge crush on the cutest girl ever and she hardly knows he’s alive. His parents have split up and he’s missing his mom. And his lone friend is, let’s face it, another geek.

But what if Jeremy could be ultra-cool and win the girl of his dreams? What if all he has to do is take a pill to have a device help him change from being a disaster to being more chill?

This is the conundrum in which the lead character in Selma Arts Center’s latest musical, “Be More Chill” finds himself. The lead is played by Fresno’s Ian Jones. The role of his best friend, Michael Mell, is played by Josh Plowman. Miguel Gastelum directs this musical that’s based on the novel by Ned Vizzini and book by Joe Tracz.

Gastelum said he’s heard the show described as “if the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ plant ate ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’” he said in reference to another musical where a teen invents an important role for himself in a tragedy.

“[Jeremy] hears about this pill he can take called the SQUIP - Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor. It plants itself in his brain and it tells him what to do and how to be more chill. I don’t want to give too much away,” Gastelum said just one night before their opening show.

The director said he sees the show highlighting how much technology can affect our lives, but more importantly how our own perception of ourselves can determine our happiness.

“It deals more with yourself, self-doubt, depression and anxieties of what others think of you. It’s definitely about acceptance and self-love, embracing who you are and knowing that’s enough. You don’t need anything else or any other influence to make your life better. What makes you happy is what's best for you and the best way to accomplish that is by being your true self.”

Gastelum raves about his versatile cast where several of them take on multiple roles.

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“One of the actors - Randy Kohlruss - plays about six to eight different characters during the course of the show. If you saw ‘A Gentlemen’s Guide to Murder’ he was in that and played like 12 characters. That’s kind of his niche.”

Vocal direction is by Shannah Estep, choreography by Connor Barton, scenic design by Aaron Lowe, costume design by Heather Sisk, hair and makeup design by Logan Cooley, lighting by Regina Harris and projection design by Dominic Grijalva.

“More Chill” has already sold out some shows and the remaining performances are:

  • 7 p.m. Thursday, July 25 - (Discount night/talkback)
  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 26 (Post-show cabaret)
  • 2 p.m. Saturday, July 27 BOGO* Must purchase a minimum of two tickets
  • 7 p.m. Saturday, July 27

Vizual Voices ASL interpretation is offered during specific performances for deaf and hard of hearing guests.

Tickets are $21 for adults, $19 student/senior and $17 children. The musical is rated PG-13 for language and mild adult humor.

For tickets, call 891-2238, visit selmaartscenter.com or purchase in person at the Selma Arts Center box office, 1935 High St., Selma. Box office hours are 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Tickets will also be available at the door for the same price until sold out. Season membership holders may apply their membership benefits for this event. Doors open half hour before show time.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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