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Broadway Q&A: Stephanie Hsu of ‘Be More Chill’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ alum soars in ‘Be More Chill’

Stephanie Hsu stars as Christine, the theater-obsessed teen in the musical sensation Be More Chill. The show was a viral hit before it even played Off-Broadway at The Signature Theatre. In fact, the pre-Broadway cast album has over 250 million streams, and garnered a fierce following with fans around the globe. (It was recently announced that Ghostlight Records will record a new Broadway cast album.) Be More Chill centers around a group of teens who are longing to fit in. The show is based on a novel by Ned Vizzini, with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz. In 2017, Hsu made her Broadway debut in SpongeBob SquarePants. Her TV credits include The Path on Hulu and MTVs Girl Code

Stephanie Hsu plays Christine in ‘Be More Chill’ on Broadway (Photo: Maria Baranova)

Stephanie Hsu plays Christine in ‘Be More Chill’ on Broadway (Photo: Maria Baranova)

Christine is unlike anyone we have seen before. She is not afraid to share her inner feelings. What do you love about her? 
Stephanie Hsu: She is so incredibly joyous and curious. And she is so smart. She understands the hierarchy around her. Yet she chooses her own lane and marches to the beat of her own drum. That is a beautiful thing and not often celebrated on stage, certainly not as a love interest. My intention with her is to bring all the joy I can muster in my body to give to audiences. That is such an important medicine. 

When did you know that Be More Chill was this crazy, viral hit?
: I remember thinking, “Oh, there’s a lot of  fan art of me being made on Instagram.” I thought, “Oh that’s interesting.” Then I was in SpongeBob SquarePants. At my first ever stage door, I walked out of the stage door of my first Broadway show, and someone all the way at the end was with their mother. They started singing “Christine” (from Be More Chill). They just sang it all the way until I made it to them to sign their Playbill for SpongeBob. It was the first time that I realized this is real. Throughout the entire process with SpongeBob, people would bring to the stage door Be More Chill things that they had made. And at that point, it was before Be More Chill was announced to go Off-Broadway.

You have so many fans of the show. What has that been like for you? 
: The Signature Theatre had never had anything like it. People have flown from Australia just to see Be More Chill. That is a very long flight to see a show Off-Broadway. It was wild, and so special to be able to meet so many people from all around the world who have fallen in love with the show. 

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw? 
: When I was in High School in Los Angeles, I came to New York on a theater trip with my high school. We saw a lot of shows, but the one that stuck out the most to me was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Everyone around me was saying, “Hey, hey, there’s this role, Marcy Park. You could totally play it.” I remember seeing the show at Circle in The Square, and being so moved by how small the theater was. 

Can you talk about your Broadway debut in SpongeBob SquarePants
SH: I have been joking that I’ve gone through Broadway through the back door twice. I was with SpongeBob from development for six years. I was thrown into a reading in the Viacom building just to read extra voices. So I never auditioned for SpongeBob. I just was with it from the very beginning. Then they called me one day and said, “We got a theater, we’re going to Broadway.” It was like, “Oh my God. Okay! I guess I’m going!” It was crazy.

What do you love to do when you are not working? 
: I do a lot of yoga, and I love to cook. I live very close to a food co-op, so when my manager calls I say, “Hey, I can’t talk. I’m working a shift at my local grocery store.” Also, I love being in nature as much as possible. I love Prospect Park. 

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in April 2019.

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