Now, before I even get into why I enjoy Be More Chill, I will readily admit and accept that this musical is not everybody’s cup of tea. It has its low points, and doesn’t really cater to every single audience out there. That’s bound to happen with a musical, and that’s beyond okay. There’s been a fair share of people who won’t even give the show a shot, though, and I want to express why this show is so important to me and so many other people my age.
The people involved with this show care so deeply about their audiences. With the years I’ve been involved with the theatre community, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cast and crew as engaged with their audience as I have with Be More Chill. It’s easy to love a show that has a cast and creative team that values their fans as much as this show did; even though it’s Broadway run has ended, I still see consistent interaction between the creators and fans. The lyricist for the show, Joe Iconis, is someone I see interacting with fans frequently; he does Q&A’s, releases snippets from unreleased songs, and will react to tweets he’s tagged in. Obviously, he isn’t the only one who interacts with the fans of the show, but he’s one of the first that came to mind. Audience interaction is really important to me personally– it shows that the cast and crew are aware of their fans and care about what they think.
The actual show itself has a good history of changing with the times to ensure it isn’t overly offensive. In the original 2015 run of the show, there were a couple lines that would slut-shame other characters. Once Be More Chill got approved to move to an Off-Broadway run in 2018, the writers of the show worked with the women in the cast to alter anything that wasn’t necessarily acceptable. There are still a few instances where risqué lines slipped through, but the writing is definitely better compared to the original run in 2015.
On top of the writer’s mindfulness, the cast for the Broadway run is relatively diverse. With only 10 actors in the cast total, five of them were people of color (not to mention, two of the five swings were also people of color). Broadway, in general, is pretty whitewashed– it isn’t super often you see half the cast being something other than Caucasian, and there isn’t really an excuse for that. The talent pool to pick from is incredibly large, and the fact that Be More Chill creators kept this in mind is the bare minimum to creating a good show. Not only is the cast racially diverse, but multiple actors and creative members of the show are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Representing multiple walks of life is super important, especially in a show that is meant to connect with younger audiences.
Speaking of younger audiences– this show is catered for teenagers. There really aren’t many shows out there that intentionally do this– other than maybe Dear Evan Hansen, shows are typically made with adult audiences in mind. This isn’t always a bad thing, but as a teenager, it can be really hard to connect with these adult characters going through such specific issues. Be More Chill is all about this average kid doing his best to navigate his junior year of high school (which I think we can all agree was not easy). Seeing him deal with issues like girls, friendships, and popularity is something I experienced and went through already. It was easy to empathize with the characters, and it was significantly easier for me to understand how they were feeling and their motivations for their actions.
In terms of the actual show, the concept is super interesting. The show is based off Ned Vizzini’s 2004 novel of the same name, so it isn’t technically original. The entire basis is that a teenager, Jeremy Heere, is convinced to take a supercomputer, called a SQUIP, to make him cooler. It’s basically there to help him climb up the social ladder of high school. In comparison to its original content matter, there are significant differences: the characters are a lot less likable in the novel, and the villain isn’t as clear-cut as it is in the musical. It could even be argued that there isn’t a villain in the novel, and that Joe Tracz, the book writer for the show, created one for a more dramatic effect. Regardless, a sci-fi musical being in existence is really cool to me, especially since it was set in a modern-day high school.
Lastly, the actual music of this show is super fun to listen to. Not a lot of shows have a techno-twist to it (out of the ones I’ve heard, at least). There are fun solo songs, along with longer ensemble pieces that get the audience excited. Some personal favorites of mine are “Sync Up,” “The Pants Song,” and “The Pitiful Children.” The orchestrations of these songs are super fun to listen to, and the actual lyrics are simple but engaging. I love listening through Be More Chill just for the sound alone– the storyline is just a bonus.
Overall, the show definitely isn’t something that’s been brought to Broadway before. It caters to younger audiences, which can get people into theatre at younger ages than prior. The concept is interesting, the cast and crew are interactive with audiences, and the overall show is super fun to listen to. If you’ve never listened to Be More Chill before, I definitely recommend giving it a shot– you may find a show you thoroughly enjoy, or it could be something you’re not the biggest fan of. There’s never harm in trying something new, though, especially in terms of musicals.