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Broadway Q&A: George Salazar of ‘Be More Chill’

Category Broadway

|by Matthew Wexler |


Chilling out with the “Michael in the Bathroom” standout

The anticipation of Be More Chill’s Broadway arrival has been anything but low-key. The Gen Z musical has been gaining traction since the cast recording of its original regional theater production went viral on social media. But nobody may be more excited than one of its stars, George Salazar.

Salazar has been with the show from the beginning, originating the role of Michael, best friend to Jeremy (Will Roland, original cast member of Dear Evan Hansen), who swallows an artificial intelligence pill to help him fit in at school. Salazar, who’s openly gay and grew up in a multi-ethnic family (his father is Ecuadorian, his mother is Filipino), immediately connected with the subject matter and sees his character as the kind of best friend you always wish you had or could be. His Act II song, “Michael in the Bathroom,” has become the show’s anthem. A video of the song’s studio recording has been viewed more than 3.2 million times on YouTube.

Will Roland and George Salazar in ‘Be More Chill’ on Broadway (Photo: Maria Baranova)

Will Roland and George Salazar in ‘Be More Chill’ on Broadway (Photo: Maria Baranova)

The musical set a house record during its first week on Broadway, as fans of all ages descended upon the Lyceum Theatre to get their first look at the musical since its sold-out Off-Broadway run last summer. Salazar is soaking it all in, thrilled to finally bring the show and his much-beloved character to the masses. 

How do you tap into your inner teen?
George Salazar
: I actually use physical work to find that childlike wonderment that Michael possesses. I walk around in character, and smile, and stretch my arms wide to allow light and energy to come and go from my center.

Be More Chill premiered at The Two Rivers Theater in 2015. How has the show (and your character) evolved since this production?
GS
: Michael has become more innocent. I’ve learned over the last couple productions that the more lovable he is from the beginning of the show, the more fulfilling and satisfying his story is for both the audience and me as the performer.

The last Broadway show you were in was Godspell at Circle in the Square, and now you’re performing at the Lyceum – the oldest continually operating theater in New York City. What was that first moment like stepping on the stage? 
GS: Walking onto the stage of the Lyceum actually feels like I'm making my Broadway debut, because I'm now doing a Broadway show in a traditional Broadway house. Circle in the Square is a gorgeous and versatile space, but there's nothing quite like performing on a proscenium Broadway stage in such a historic Broadway theater.

The first time I stepped onto that stage, I was inconsolable. I couldn’t stop crying and was actually having a hard time breathing. It’s a dream come true. It’s so many dreams come true.

Your Instagram feed features several black and white Polaroids at your dressing table – who are they and how do they inspire you?
GS
: I have a couple Polaroids at my station, but my favorite one is a candid shot of Jennifer Ashley Tepper (one of my best friends and producers of Be More Chill), Joe Iconis (one of my best friends and favorite collaborators and the composer/lyricist of BMC) and Joe Tracz (another dear friend and favorite collaborator, and the book writer of BMC). Seeing their joy and knowing our hard work has brought their musical to Broadway makes my heart explode.

Composer and lyricist Joe Iconis has been a longtime friend. How did you meet, and did you ever imagine you'd be opening a show on Broadway together?
GS
: We were first introduced by Jen Tepper after a preview performance of Godspell. Jen said, “George, meet Joe. Joe, meet George. You two should make things with each other.” And now here we are!

I one-hundred percent imagined I’d be opening a Broadway show with Joe. He is a writer that has constantly challenged me, whose work speaks to me, and who has given me an artistic home. This makes so much sense, to be honest.
***
Snag tickets for Be More Chill and for more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in February 2019.

 

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