Beginning with a short, badly reviewed run in New Jersey, to a sold-out off-Broadway run, to Broadway itself, the musical Be More Chill has had an interesting journey. The musical, based on Ned’s Vizzini’s book with the same name, focuses on anxious high school junior Jeremy Heere, played by actor Will Roland. Heere wants to do “more than survive” his years in high school, even though his best friend, Michael Mell, played by George Salazar, advises him that he will be “cool in college.” When Jeremy’s bully, Rich Goranski, played by Gerda Canonico, explains how to get a Squip, or a supercomputer that can help anyone be popular, Heere jumps at the chance to buy one. However, being popular comes at the cost of losing his best friend and possibly the fleeting interest of his longtime crush, Christine Canigula, played by Stephanie Hsu.
Roland portrayed Heere almost perfectly, showing his anxious tics and craving for a higher social status. In fact, Heere’s eleven o’clock number, “Loser Geek Whatever”, almost brought the audience to tears despite its cutesy rhymes and simplistic lyrics. Heere’s character was one of the best and most realistic due to Roland’s performance.
During the performance I attended Salazar was sick so his understudy, Troy Iwata, played the part of Mell. Iwata fit the role more closely than the thirty-three-year-old Salazar. Despite character Mell’s cult-like following, he was barely in the show, but his big number, “Michael in the Bathroom”, left the audience gasping for breath in between sobs. However, Mell’s romance with character Goranski at the conclusion of the play felt like a rushed grab for character representation that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Stephanie Hsu was a perfect fit for the role of Canigula. She was quirky and over the top, but I could understand why she was the love interest. Canigula’s love of theater and her unrelenting confidence radiated and helped me fall in love with her. However, all of her songs were honestly terrible. The lyrics barely made sense, the music was not catchy or fun, nor did it show off Hsu’s beautiful voice.
The rest of the cast created an eccentric version of New Jersey high school students. Sadly, their costumes were a bad clash between Forever 21 and Justice that no teenager would ever wear, which distracted audience members from their lines and acting. Also, all the actors seemed way too old to be playing teens. However, they all had amazing personalities and voices, which brought the show alive.
Aside from the actor’s great acting, the play’s musical score by Joe Iconis was repetitive and had simplistic but terrible lyrics. One example of this is “I love play rehearsal/ Cause’ you are equipped with direction and text/ Life is easy in rehearsal/ You follow a script so you know what comes next.” All of the songs have similar rhyme schemes and use simple words. Also, the instrumentals sounded more like an annoying ringtone than a Broadway score. Surprisingly, this was the same score that received over 150 million listens on Youtube and gained the show its cult following.
It seemed like someone watched a lot of high school based movies and then decided to write a musical about it. No high school student would ever act, dress, or talk like any of these characters nor would we care about the same things. None of the dialogue sounded like real interactions, which confused me. The worst part of the whole show had to be the climax, as known as the musical number “The Play,” which barely had any music. I was puzzled about what was happening, and when I figured it out, I was puzzled why it was even part of the plot line.
All in all, Be More Chill is an incredibly cheesy show with tedious music and a crazy unrealistic plot. However, the actors surprisingly elevated the show with their over the top acting and singing. I do not believe this show stacks up to any other show on Broadway. So, next time you are looking to see a musical, I advise you to see anything but Be More Chill.