×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Be More Chill’

Teens loved its viral soundtrack and video game stylings during last summer’s Off Broadway run, but will mainstream Broadway audiences thrill to this chill?

With:
Gerard Canonico, Katlyn Carlson, Stephanie Hsu,  Lauren Marcus, George Salazar, Tiffany Mann, Will Roland, Britton Smith, Jason Tam, Jason SweetTooth Williams.

2 hours 30 minutes

Be More Chill” is already a Broadway Cinderella story.

A tale of nerdy teen angst and technology by songwriter Joe Iconis and bookwriter Joe Tracz, this geek-love, sci-fi, high school musical bombed during its initial 2015 run at Two River Theater in New Jersey. Rather than go away, however, it became an internet sensation when its electro-pop soundtrack miraculously hit 200 million-plus streams, wound up a fan-art favorite on Tumblr, attracted commercial producers and sold out last summer’s Off Broadway run with a predominantly tween crowd that camped out post-show for mere glimpses of the cast.

That same energetic cast is on board for this fresh Broadway run of “Be More Chill.” The musical’s storyline is driven by the friendship of dweebs Jeremy (Will Roland) and Michael (George Salazar), and the lengths that Jeremy will go to eschew loserhood and finally get the girl, Christine (Stephanie Hsu).

That Jeremy’s transition involves a dangerous mega-computer-in-a-pill called a Squip, personified by a megalomaniacal, Keanu Reeves-like presence (Jason Tam), is what drives “Be More Chill,” comically and even thrillingly at times. There is a breathless quality to everything that squeaky (but belting) baritone Roland does in his attempt to break free and be cool.

And those thrills aren’t just for kids. 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.

In many ways, the icy bounce of “Be More Chill” and the silly videogame drama of “Two-Player Game” will remind anyone who came of age in the 1980s of New Wave hits from “Rock Lobster” to “Cars.” The ‘c-c-c-come on’ refrain of the fast-paced “More Than Survive” could have come from the British Invasion of the 1960s or the Ramones’ invasion of C.B.G.B’s in the 1970s. Cast members’ Katlyn Carlson, Tiffany Mann and Lauren Marcus’ raucous “The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)” is a direct, gossipy tribute to stage composer Charles Strause’s “The Telephone Hour” from 1960’s “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Then there’s the universal story behind “Be More Chill,” which involves unrequited love, the fight for the fair damsel, concerned loved ones, and a mind-controlling bad guy — although there may be more mentions of Mountain Dew, eBay and premature Eminem obituaries than in the average musical to hit Broadway. Plus, with its willingness to jokingly promote drugs and promiscuity, this is hardly a children’s musical.

In the move from Off Broadway, several Act I entrances — from the musical’s first Squip abuser, Rich (Gerard Canonico), and from Jason’s father, Mr. Heere (Jason SweetTooth Williams, playing several roles) — have been trimmed. Some bits and pieces of the relationship between Jeremy and Michael also seem to have been reduced or tamped down from the Off Broadway version.

Thanks to those changes, the Broadway “Be More Chill” feels more even and flows more smoothly than it did Off Broadway. On occasion you missed the frenetic, awkward pace of the original: the Off Broadway “Be More Chill” felt gawky, quick and weird, like its subject matter. The new “Be More Chill,” on the other hand, seems to want to grow up faster and get to the point more sharply. Still, rushed or relaxed, “Be More Chill” is Broadway’s wiliest and socially savviest night out for teens and parents alike.

Broadway Review: 'Be More Chill'

Lyceum Theatre, 922 seats; $165 top. Opened March 10, 2019. Reviewed March 6. Running time: TWO HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production: Gerald Goehring, Michael F. Mitri, Jennifer Ashley Tepper, Marc David Levine, Marlene and Gary Cohen, 42nd.club, The Baruch Frankel Viertel Group, Alisa and Charlie Thorne, Jenny Niederhoffer, Chris Blasting/Simpson & Longthorne, Brad Blume/Gemini Theatrical, Jonathan Demar/Kim Vasquez, Ben Holtzman and Sammy Lopez,Koenigsberg/Federman/Adler, Ashlee Latimer and Jenna Ushkowitz, Jenn Maley and Cori Stolbun, Robert and Joan Rechnitz, Fred and Randi Sternfeld, YesBroadway Productions, in association with Two River Theater, Red Bank, NJ, present a musical in two acts with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and book by Joe Tracz.

Creative: Directed by Stephen Brackett. Choreography, Chase Brock; scenic design, Beowulf Boritt; costume design, Bobby Frederick Tilley II; lighting design, Tyler Micoleau; sound design, Ryan Rumery; projection design, Alex Basco Koch; musical direction, Emily Marshall; orchestrations, Charlie Rosen; casting, Telsey + Company / Adam Caldwell, CSA & Rebecca Scholl, CSA; production stage management, Amanda Michaels; general management, Lisa Dozier King; production management, SenovvA Production Core.

Cast: Gerard Canonico, Katlyn Carlson, Stephanie Hsu,  Lauren Marcus, George Salazar, Tiffany Mann, Will Roland, Britton Smith, Jason Tam, Jason SweetTooth Williams.

More Legit

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    West End Review: Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'

    It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter’s plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play [...]

  • Johnny Thompson

    Magician Johnny 'The Great Tomsoni' Thompson Dies at 84

    Johnny Thompson, also known as “The Great Tomsoni,” died in Las Vegas on March 9. He was 84. The showman was a versatile performer of music, magic, comedy, and drama throughout his decades long career. Thompson was born to Polish ancestry in Chicago in 1934. He began his career as a musician and musical arranger. [...]

  • The Devil Wears Prada

    'The Devil Wears Prada' Musical Taps Anna D. Shapiro to Direct

    Miranda Priestly can’t call all the shots. The upcoming musical adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada” has tapped Anna D. Shapiro to direct the show, which is eyeing an eventual Broadway run. The story of an aspiring writer who works for the magazine editor from hell has previously been a best-selling book and a hit [...]

  • Hugh JackmanBrit Awards 2019 Arrivals, London,

    Hugh Jackman Starring in 'The Music Man' Revival on Broadway

    Hugh Jackman will return to Broadway in an upcoming revival of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” It marks Jackman’s first musical role in more than a decade, which should make it a hot ticket. His last one, “The Boy From Oz,” resulted in a Tony Award for best actor. Jackman will play con man Harold [...]

  • Gareth Owen sound design

    Listen: The Secrets of Broadway Sound Design

    Sound design might be the most thankless job on Broadway — because when you get it right, nobody notices. Besides, a lot of theatergoers — and more than a few Tony voters — don’t quite know what it is. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Broadway and West End sound designer Gareth Owen (“Come From [...]

  • britney Spears Las Vegas Residency Planet

    Britney Spears-Themed Musical Coming to Broadway

    The songs of Britney Spears will be featured in “Once Upon a One More Time,” a musical comedy featuring 23 titles from the singer’s catalog, theater owner James L. Nederlander announced today. The show will have its premiere in fall at Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre before heading to Broadway. Previews begin  October 29, with an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content