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Now Opening: ‘Be More Chill’ Upgrades to Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

The Broadway musical powered by online fans opens on March 10th

The phenomenon that is Be More Chill has now made the move to Broadway. Although it remains to be seen if it will repeat the same success it found when it was produced Off-Broadway, this Generation Z musical is already assured of a place in the history books due to its unorthodoxy. It could very well prove to be the first show to have steamrolled its way to Broadway via social media, powered by a fan base that made it all possible. Consider that its original cast recording has already earned over 200 million streams, and you’ll understand why there is an appetite for what it has to offer.

The cast of ‘Be More Chill’ on Broadway (Photo: Maria Baranova)

The cast of ‘Be More Chill’ on Broadway (Photo: Maria Baranova)

Be More Chill, and its story of a dorky teenager who swallows a pill-sized supercomputer in the hope that it will improve his decidedly uninteresting life, is based on the novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini. It’s been adapted for the stage by Joe Tracz (The Lightning Thief and Netflix’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events), and its score is by Joe Iconis, who serves as both its composer and lyricist. Iconis has long been a cult favorite by way of his songwriting contributions to the NBC TV series Smash, which included numbers, like “Broadway, Here I Come,” that have gone on to become cabaret standards. Late last summer, Be More Chill’s Off-Broadway limited engagement not only sold out, but extended its run – then sold out again. That might lead you to believe its creative team would rest on its laurels before the move to Broadway, but this is not the case. Director Stephen Brackett, who has been with the show from the beginning, has supervised a retooling and rebooting, making improvements to the book and even adding a new song. The costumes and sets have been rethought and redesigned, leading to the Broadway production being labeled (even among its producers) as Be More Chill 3.0.

It was 2015 when Be More Chill first premiered at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. It ran for a month, ending its limited run, and things didn’t look promising after a tepid review in the all-important New York Times. But that was the past, and Be More Chill looks more and more like a show of the future (and that’s not because it has a sci-fi element to its storytelling). The decision to record a cast album proved a brilliant move when it allowed the show’s compelling score to take hold beyond the parameters of New Jersey. It’s a solid fact that Be More Chill has the internet to thank for its fans hearing the score and then turning their friends on to it, inspiring thousands to create both art and fan fiction, leading to where things stand today: a brand new Broadway musical that even before its opening night has a worldwide following.

As to what kind of a musical it is, The New Yorker said it best: “If you fed Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls to the Little Shop of Horrors plant, with a few Xbox games as a digestive, Be More Chill is probably what you would get.” And Variety sums up its virtues when it said: “It’s one thing to be told that Be More Chill is a viral hit on the internet. It’s quite another to experience the hype live and in the room, where the audience explodes like it’s at a rock concert…People have come from all over the country, if not all around the world to see it.”

Now in a Broadway house seating nine hundred, Be More Chill’s producers are fully aware it will take three times the number of people to sell it out per performance, eight times a week, than it did during its sold-out Off-Broadway run. But judging by the crowds gathered at the stage door after its early preview performances in February and March, New York Magazine stated it well when it reported: “The abstract idea of an ‘internet sensation’ becomes a sensation sensation. This isn’t just a show that’s big online, it’s big in person.”

Just how big? Time will tell. In the meantime, if you want to find out what all the screaming and shouting’s about, make your way to the Lyceum Theatre at 149 W. 45th Street.

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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