Be More Chill
Music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, book by Joe Tracz
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
“C-c-c-come on! C-c-c-come on!” Those are the inviting opening lines and the continuing motif of Be More Chill, the new Broadway musical in which the millennial generation fully comes into its own on Broadway. The show is loud and fun, even though its boundless energy occasionally becomes relentless and even assaultive.
Chill doesn’t necessarily belong in the same category as Broadway’s other Millennial high school musicals, including Mean Girls, The Prom, and especially Dear Evan Hansen, in terms of quality, but I suspect it will get a special embrace by Millennials because the wisecracking book by Joe Tracz and the pop score by Joe Iconis speak the generation’s social media-inspired language even more fluently than those others.
Be More Chill tells the Faustian story of Jeremy Heere (wonky Dear Evan Hansen alum Will Roland) a hopeless high school nerd who discovers something called a Squip, a super-secret nanocomputer from Japan that can be ingested like a pill. The voice of the Squip (the sinister Jason Tam) advises Jeremy on how to be more cool, be more sexy—in short, be more chill. The inevitable evil downside to the Squip emerges in Act II.
Endearing Stephanie Hsu plays the show’s object of desire Christine Canigula, who wins over the audience early with the song “I Love Play Rehearsal.” George Salazar, as the hero’s equally nerdy best friend and videogame partner, gets the show’s best song, the paen to shyness “Michael in the Bathroom.”
Directed by Stephen Brackett and choreographed by Chase Brock with pell-mell zest, the show benefits from a seemingly endless stream of wildly imaginative and often hilarious costumes by Bobby Frederick Tilley II. Other tech credits are first-class as well, notably Beowulf Boritt’s wacky and fluid sets, and Tyler Micoleau’s retina-zapping lighting.
Following a sold-out Off-Broadway run at Signature Theatre, Be More Chill is playing an open-ended run at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. Down the road, when amateur productions begin popping up at every high school everywhere, Be More Chill will become the Bye Bye Birdie of the 2020s.