Be More Chill (musical)

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Be More Chill
Be More Chill 2018.jpg
Broadway promotional poster
MusicJoe Iconis
LyricsJoe Iconis
BookJoe Tracz
BasisBe More Chill
by Ned Vizzini
PremiereMay 30, 2015: Two River Theatre, Red Bank, New Jersey
Productions2015 New Jersey
2018 Off-Broadway
2019 Broadway

Be More Chill is a musical with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, and a book by Joe Tracz, based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini.[1] After a 2015 regional theatre production, the musical premiered Off-Broadway in 2018. A Broadway production began previews on February 13, 2019, and officially opened on March 10, 2019.

A film adaptation is in development.

Productions[edit]

The musical premiered in May 30, 2015 at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey.[2] The production featured Will Connolly as Jeremy, Eric William Morris as the Squip, George Salazar as Michael, and Stephanie Hsu as Christine, as well as Katie Ladner, Lauren Marcus, Jake Boyd, Gerard Canonico, Katlyn Carlson, and Paul Whitty. The musical was commissioned by Two River Theater as part of their new play development program.[3][4]

Be More Chill ran Off-Broadway at the Irene Diamond Stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center. It began previews July 26, 2018, and closed on September 30, 2018.[5] This production featured several original cast members including Hsu, Salazar, Canonico, Carlson, and Marcus reprising their respective roles. New cast members included Will Roland as Jeremy, Jason Tam as the Squip, Britton Smith as Jake, Tiffany Mann as Jenna, and Jason "Sweettooth" Williams as Mr. Heere.[6]

On September 5, 2018 a Broadway production was announced, with previews beginning at the Lyceum Theatre on February 13, 2019.[7] The Broadway transfer was estimated to cost $9.5 million according to lead producer Jerry Goehring.[8]

Synopsis[edit]

Act One[edit]

Jeremy Heere, a high school junior, is a social outcast. He lives with his recently divorced father, who works from home and makes Jeremy uncomfortable by refusing to wear pants in the house. At school, Jeremy is bullied by popular student Rich Goranski, who writes "boyf" on his backpack. At lunch, he meets up with Michael Mell, his best friend (on whose backpack Rich has written "riends"). Michael tries to comfort Jeremy by telling him that being a loser is okay. Jeremy sees his long-time crush Christine Canigula signing up for the school play and decides to sign up as well. Jeremy wonders why he has to be the outcast, and if someone can help him "more than survive" ("More Than Survive").

As they wait for the first play rehearsal to begin, Christine professes her love of theater to Jeremy, explaining that she likes being able to play different people and always knowing what to say and do ("I Love Play Rehearsal"). As more popular cast members trickle in, their drama teacher, Mr. Reyes, reveals—to Christine's horror—that the school play will be A Midsummer Night's Dream set in a post-apocalyptic future, re-titled "A Midsummer Nightmare (About Zombies)". During rehearsal, Jake Dillinger, one of the popular boys and Rich's friend, flirts with Christine, making Jeremy jealous. ("More Than Survive (Reprise 1)").

After rehearsal, Jeremy is confronted in the bathroom by Rich. Rich tells Jeremy how Rich managed his rise to popularity: as an unpopular freshman, he took a pill called a "super quantum unit intel processor"—a "SQUIP"—containing a computer that implants itself inside the user's brain and tells the user what to do and say. Rich suggests that Jeremy buy one from him in order to become cooler. ("The Squip Song").

While playing video games with Michael after school, Jeremy tells him about Rich's offer; although Michael is convinced that Jeremy is being scammed. After an awkward conversation with his dad (still not wearing pants), Jeremy decides to check the SQUIP out. Jeremy assures Michael that, no matter what happens, they'll always be a team. ("Two Player Game").

The two visit the mall to buy the SQUIP from a dealer at Payless ShoeSource. Jeremy, as instructed, swallows it with green Mountain Dew. When the SQUIP activates, it causes Jeremy to have a seizure in front of Christine and Jake ("The SQUIP Enters"). The SQUIP (in the guise of Keanu Reeves), criticizes Jeremy's appearance, personality, and behavior, telling him that everything about him is terrible ("Be More Chill Pt. 1"). The SQUIP orders him to go to a store to buy a new Eminem shirt. At the store, Jeremy encounters two popular girls from school, Brooke Lohst and Chloe Valentine. The SQUIP has Jeremy fabricate a story about how he had been cheated on in order to create sympathy with the two girls. They offer Jeremy a ride home ("Do You Wanna Ride?") which the SQUIP demands he accept, but Jeremy declines, telling them that he has to meet his friend. The girls leave, and the SQUIP lies to Jeremy and tells him that Michael has left the mall. It then tells him that in order for its plan to work, Jeremy needs to obey every order it gives him. The SQUIP convinces Jeremy that following its instructions will doubtless improve his social standing ("Be More Chill Pt. 2").

The next day, Jeremy heads to school with renewed confidence, wondering if he might be less invisible than before. The SQUIP delves into the inner psyche of the student body around him, giving Jeremy insight on the fears and insecurities of his fellow peers, showing that he's not alone ("Sync Up"). Jeremy sees Rich, who is initially angry that Jeremy bought the SQUIP directly instead of through him, but the SQUIP syncs itself with Rich's, making them friends. Brightened by his new friendships with Rich and the other popular kids, Jeremy heads confidently to drama practice ("More Than Survive (Reprise)"). At rehearsal, the cast of the play begins to rehearse the zombie-apocalypse version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. During a break, Christine tells Jeremy about her feelings for a guy she knows, who Jeremy initially believes is himself, but who turns out to be Jake ("A Guy That I'd Kinda Be Into").

Afterward, the SQUIP informs Jeremy that Christine won't date him until his social standing drastically improves. Encouraging Jeremy to use an interested Brooke as a stepping stone to greater popularity, he hooks up with her, while Jake asks Christine to come to his house ("Upgrade"). Overwhelmed, Jeremy asks the SQUIP to shut itself off for a few minutes. Immediately, Jeremy sees Michael and is elated, telling him he hasn't seen him all day, but Michael states that Jeremy has been ignoring him. The SQUIP turns itself back on and explains that it was blocking Michael from Jeremy's vision using "optic nerve blocking," and that in order to be more popular he has to "upgrade to Jeremy 2.0." Jeremy eventually decides he is tired of being a loser and turns on optic nerve blocking, leaving him alone with the SQUIP. ("Loser Geek Whatever").

Act Two[edit]

On Halloween, Jake hosts a large party that features alcohol and other shenanigans ("Halloween"). Christine arrives in a revealing princess costume, hoping to please Jake, but Jake (being heavily intoxicated), brushes her aside to party. Jeremy arrives late and meets Brooke, but when she leaves to get a drink, Chloe, who is jealous of Brooke, takes Jeremy upstairs and tries to seduce him. Jeremy is uncomfortable and tries to get away, but the SQUIP forces him to remain in the situation where it escalates to Chloe making out with Jeremy("Do You Wanna Hang?"). Chloe also has Jeremy drink alcohol, causing the SQUIP to malfunction, and then feigns having sex with him; causing Jake to become jealous and breaking Brooke's heart.

Fleeing from Jake and the girls, Jeremy runs into a bathroom, where he finds Michael, who has crashed the party. Michael tries to warn Jeremy of the dangers of the SQUIP, explaining that someone ended up in a mental hospital after they went crazy trying to get it out of their head. Jeremy accuses Michael of being jealous of his popularity and calls him a loser. Michael, devastated and angry, locks himself in the bathroom, where he has a severe panic attack as he mourns the loss of his best and only friend ("Michael in the Bathroom"). Jeremy meets Christine and he asks her out in a sudden burst of confidence ("A Guy That I'd Kinda Be Into (Reprise)"). Christine, who has found herself in an existential crisis, declines, and runs out of the party.

Meanwhile, Rich goes around the party frantically asking people for Mountain Dew Red. Jeremy's SQUIP finally reactivates and reviews the events of the night, prompting Jeremy to leave the party immediately. Rich, alone and desperate, is shown taking a lit jack-o-lantern. The next morning, Jenna Rolan, the school gossip, informs everyone that Rich had burned down Jake's house at the end of the party, sending Rich to the hospital and causing Jake to break both of his legs jumping out of a window trying to escape. The news spreads throughout the school through text and tweeting. ("The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)").

At home, Jeremy is confronted by his father, who brings up Jeremy's new personality and change in attitude. Jeremy reprimands his father for his behavior since his the divorce, calling him a loser as well. Shaken by Jeremy's words, Mr. Heere realizes that something is very wrong and that he must take charge. He tracks down Michael, who has been smoking copious amounts of weed since the trauma of the party and convinces him to not give up on his friend ("The Pants Song").

As the cast prepares for the play, Jeremy encounters Christine, who is shaken and upset about the fire. Jeremy is unhappy with the way things are proceeding as well as the relationships he has damaged and angrily blames the SQUIP for his misfortune. The SQUIP instead blames it on "human error" and instead tells Jeremy he can improve the lives of the rest of the students, and eventually the whole world, by providing them all with SQUIPs. The SQUIP has Jeremy open Rich's locker, where he finds a box full of enough SQUIPs for the entire student body, which Jeremy then pours into a beaker of Mountain Dew ("The Pitiful Children").

Backstage during the play, Christine confronts Jeremy over his use of the SQUIP; causing him to doubt the plan. However the SQUIP senses this and has Mr. Reyes take the beaker and SQUIP the other students in the play. The SQUIP reveals its intention to sync the entire student body, in an effort to make everyone in the whole world happy. Jeremy also comes to a realization: green Mountain Dew activates the SQUIP, while red Mountain Dew deactivates it. Michael reappears from the audience with a bottle of Mountain Dew Red which he gives to Jeremy after making Jeremy apologize for his actions; but a SQUIPed Jake steals it and dumps most of it out. Jeremy and Michael fight off the controlled students to regain the bottle until the SQUIP reveals that Christine has been SQUIPed, and under its influence, she professes her love for Jeremy. Jeremy however, realizes this is not what he had wanted, and momentarily breaks free from the SQUIP to make Christine drink the last of the red Mountain Dew: this causes a chain reaction that destroys the rest of the SQUIPS ("The Play").

Jeremy wakes up in the hospital, sharing a room with Rich, who proudly informs Jeremy that he's bisexual and ready to finally be who he really is. Michael visits Jeremy and the two reconcile, and Mr. Heere (now wearing pants) visit Jeremy as well, informing him that he’ll be a better dad. Surrounded by his friends and family, Jeremy finally realizes that there will always be outside influences, but he needs to learn to make up his own mind instead of simply giving in. He asks Christine out again (for bowling alley performance art), and this time she accepts and kisses him. The SQUIP reveals itself to still be alive, weakly taunting Jeremy from inside his head, but Jeremy ignores it, happily proclaiming that "of the voices in my head, the loudest one is mine." ("Voices in My Head")

Musical numbers[edit]

Source:[1]

× Added to the Off-Broadway production. y Added to the Broadway production. o Added to the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

  • Prior to the Off-Broadway production, the order of "The Pants Song" and "The Pitiful Children" was reversed.
  • “The SQUIP Lurks” was re-named “The SQUIP Stalks” In the Broadway production.

Roles and original casts[edit]

Original productions[edit]

Source:[6]

Character World Premiere (2015)
Two River Theatre
Workshop Cast (2016)
Feinstein's/54 Below
Off-Broadway (2018)
Signature Theatre
Broadway (2019)
Lyceum Theatre
Jeremy Heere Will Connolly Will Roland
Michael Mell George Salazar
Christine Canigula Stephanie Hsu
The SQUIP Eric William Morris Jason Tam
Chloe Valentine Katlyn Carlson
Brooke Lohst Lauren Marcus
Rich Goranski Gerard Canonico
Jenna Rolan Katie Ladner Tiffany Mann
Jake Dillinger Jake Boyd Heath Saunders Britton Smith
Mr. Heere / Mr. Reyes / Scary Stockboy Paul Whitty Jason "SweetTooth" Williams

Recording[edit]

The world premiere cast recorded an original cast album on July 21, 2015, which was released on October 31, 2015.[9] The album has since received over 250 million streams online.[10] The cast recording was released on vinyl by Ghostlight Records in July 2018.[11] A recording of the song, "Loser Geek Whatever" was released as a single on November 29, 2018.[12] An Original Broadway Cast Album was recorded in March 2019, and released May 3, 2019.

Awards and honors[edit]

Original Off-Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2019
Lucille Lortel Awards[13] Outstanding Projection Design Alex Basco Koch Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Stephanie Hsu Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical George Salazar Won
Outstanding Musical Nominated

Original Broadway Production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2019 Tony Awards[14] Best Original Score Joe Iconis Pending
Drama Desk Awards[15] Outstanding Musical Pending
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical George Salazar Pending
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Stephanie Hsu Pending
Outstanding Music Joe Iconis Pending
Outstanding Lyrics Pending
Outstanding Orchestrations Charlie Rosen Pending
Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical Bobby Frederick Tilly II Pending
Outstanding Projection Design Alex Basco Koch Pending
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding New Broadway Musical Nominated
Outstanding New Score Joe Iconis Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical George Salazar Nominated
Outstanding Projection Design Alex Basco Koch Nominated
Broadway.com Audience Awards[16] Favorite New Musical Won
Favorite Leading Actor in a Musical Will Roland Nominated
Favorite Featured Actor in a Musical George Salazar Won
Jason Tam Nominated
Gerard Canonico Nominated
Favorite Featured in a Musical Stephanie Hsu Nominated
Favorite Funny Performance Won
Favorite Onstage Pair Will Roland and George Salazar Won
Stephanie Hsu and Will Roland Nominated
Favorite New Song "I Love Play Rehearsal" Nominated
"Loser Geek Whatever" Nominated
"Michael in the Bathroom" Nominated

Reception[edit]

Despite a strong fan following online, the show has received mixed reviews from critics. Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal wrote, "'Be More Chill' is one of the strongest new musicals of the past decade, a charming, astutely crafted tale of neurotic post-millennial geeks in love whose appeal is in no way limited to those whom it portrays."[17]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine wrote, "The audiences who made this show happen digitally are now making pilgrimages to the Lyceum Theater to see those songs done live by a talented young cast with enough juice to ignite every light on Broadway... By the time Jeremy belts out his final number, “Voices in My Head,” you’ll be hearing those voices, too, in a wow of a musical that comes on like gangbusters."[18]

Reviewing the Off-Broadway production, Ben Brantley of The New York Times called the show "the theatrical equivalent of one of those high-pitched dog whistles that only those under 25 can hear," and said that the show would have little to offer for that outside of its tween fandom, as well as criticizing the poor lyricism.[19] He updated his review after seeing the Broadway production and said that even though the show's production values have increased since the Off-Broadway production, it remains "a festival of klutziness" and "the worst of the lot, with a repetitive score, painfully forced rhymes, cartoonish acting and a general approach that mistakes decibel level (literally and metaphorically) for emotional intensity."[20]

On the other hand, A.D. Amorosi of Variety called the Off-Broadway production "a memorable thrill ride, a zealously caffeinated high school musical."[21] Of the Broadway version, Amorosi wrote, "Traditional theatergoing audiences that tend to be older than the teens and twentysomethings that packed the Off-Broadway run will find delicious favor in Iconis’ contagious melodies and tricky lyrics...“Be More Chill” is Broadway’s wiliest and socially savviest night out for teens and parents alike."[22]

Film adaptation[edit]

On October 20, 2018, four months before the show opened on Broadway, it was announced that Shawn Levy's 21 Laps Entertainment and Greg Berlanti's Berlanti Productions would partner to produce a film adaptation of the musical.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Be More Chill (Original Cast Recording)". Ghostlight Records. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  2. ^ "Current Season" tworivertheater.org
  3. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2015-06-09). "Review: In Be More Chill, a Nerd Finds Popularity in a Sci-Fi Pill". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  4. ^ "Be More Chill opens at Two River Theater". NJ.com. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  5. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "Be More Chill Will Play Off-Broadway; Will Roland to Star", Playbill.com, April 13, 2018
  6. ^ a b "Company". Be More Chill | Off-Broadway | Official Site. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  7. ^ Clement, Olivia (2018-09-05). "Be More Chill Will Transfer To Broadway In 2019". playbill.com. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  8. ^ Clement, Olivia. "Be More Chill Sets Wheels in Motion for Move to Broadway". forbes.com. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  9. ^ "Joe Iconis' Be More Chill Cast Recording, with Gerard Canonico, George Salazar and More, Released Today | Playbill". Playbill. 2015-10-30. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  10. ^ "Legit Review." Variety, 2018
  11. ^ "Be More Chill Cast Recording to be Released on Vinyl | Playbill". Playbill. 2018-04-27. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  12. ^ ""Loser Geek Whatever" (from Be More Chill)". Ghostlight Records. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Nominations for 34th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards Announced; Carmen Jones and Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future Lead the Pack" Playbill, April 3, 2019
  14. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "2019 Tony Award Nominations: Hadestown and Ain't Too Proud Lead the Pack" Playbill, April 30, 2019
  15. ^ "Drama Desk Nomination – theatrelife". theatrelife.com. 2019-04-25. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  16. ^ Evans, George (2019-04-19). "'Be More Chill', 'Pretty Woman' Top Broadway's Audience Choice Awards". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  17. ^ "'Be More Chill' Review: Young Geeks in Love". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  18. ^ "'Be More Chill' Brings Its Jagged Little Teen Pill to Broadway". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  19. ^ "Review: A High School Meltdown Heats Up 'Be More Chill'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  20. ^ "Review: Anxious Teenagers Learn to 'Be More Chill' on a Big Stage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  21. ^ "Off Broadway Review: 'Be More Chill'". Variety. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  22. ^ "Broadway Review: 'Be More Chill'". Variety. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  23. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (October 20, 2018). "Shawn Levy & Greg Berlanti Chosen To Team On Movie Version Of Broadway-Bound 'Be More Chill'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 20, 2018.

External links[edit]