Get ready for Joe Iconis’s (music and lyrics) and Joe Tracz’s (book) rock-centric new musical Be More Chill to be the hottest thing in the Broadway world to be talked about. With a massive cult following, this show – that opened tonight – is already sold out, and after tonight, should have a new following with the critics and the audiences that were able to purchase tickets. I know, because I am now a fan. Think Dear Evan Hansen getting up close and personal with Little Shop of Horrors.
Be More Chill and Dear Evan Hansen were actually written and played at the same time back in 2015. Be More Chill played at Two River Theater in New Jersey. A cast album (streamed more than 100 million times) and various school productions followed, but never a professional venture.
Be More Chill is a smart look at the teen culture based on Ned Vizzini’s 2004 young adult novel. We follow Jeremy (Will Roland, Dear Evan Hansen), a high school junior who not only is a loser but is crushing on the drama obsessed Christine (Stephanie Hsu, SpongeBob SquarePants). Jeremy plays video games and laments with his stoner best friend Michael (George Salazar, Godspell). Jeremy may not have much, but he and Michael are a “Two-Player Game”. One fateful day, the bully, Rich (Gerard Canonico, Spring Awakening), who has been tormenting Jeremy tells him a Japanese gray pill called a Squip can take him up the social ladder. Buying the pill from a stock boy in the back of a Payless at the Menlo Park Mall, Jeremy takes the pill with the prescribed Mountain Dew. Flash, a Keanu Reeves look-alike (Jason Tam, A Chorus Line) begins taking over his life, separating Jeremy from Michael. Like Little Shop, the Squip wants to take over and it is Michael to the rescue.
Will Roland steps out of the supporting player role and proves he has the chops to play a leading man. His vocals are off the charts, especially in “Loser Geek, Whatever”.
Stephanie Hsu is the adorably geeky romantic interest who’s “I Love Play Rehearsal” crushes it.
Bad boy Canonico, Britton Smith as Jake – the boy Christine wants, and Chloe has – and the hot Squip Tam, bring eye candy and talent to the table.
Katilyn Carlson as the it girl Chloe and her best friend Brooke (Lauren Marcus) prove girls really are mean. Jason Sweettooth Williams nails the adult characters (including Jeremy’s pants-lacking father), while Tiffany Mann shows killer vocals as she leads “The Smart Phone Hour (Rich Set A Fire)”.
But it is George Salazar’s vulnerable Michael that breaks our hearts with his raw version of his angst-filled “Michael in the Bathroom”.
Stephen Brackett (The Lightning Thief) directs this piece with glee, mirth, and energy galore. Look for Chase Brook’s name being spread around as his choreography is mind-blowing.
Iconis’s songs are catchy and go in places you don’t expect. He creates antidotes to the problems of today that will be sung with gusto by the up and coming theatre enthusiasts everywhere. Iconis’s music is made just that much better by up-and-coming orchestrator and bandleader Charlie Rosen. Be More Chill has a unique pop and electronica influenced score and Rosen got the balance just right.
Joe Tracz’s book is predictable but it still has heart. The set by Beowulf Boritt and costumes by Bobby Frederick Tilley are fun, inventive, and perfect.
Like Dear Evan Hansen this show gets a rock show ending with audiences of all ages on their feet.
Be More Chill: Signature Theatre, Sold Out.
***Be More Chill: Signature Theatre, Sold Out. The new hit musical Be More Chill has extended by popular demand. Having sold out its entire run prior to opening night, Be More Chill has now extended its limited engagement one week through September 30. Performances are Tuesday – Friday at 7:30PM; Saturday at 2PM and 8PM; and Sunday at 2PM & 7:30PM at The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street, NYC). Tickets are $80 – $160 and are now on sale at TicketCentral.com, (212) 279-4200. For more information, visit www.BeMoreChillMusical.com.