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Be More Chill - Broadway Cast (2)
Be More Chill - Broadway Cast (2)
Photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki
Culture > Entertainment

“Be More Chill”: Taking a Look at the Off-Broadway to Broadway Pipeline

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

When I was in high school, the musical theater community was hyper-fixating on four big productions: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Heathers, and Be More Chill, the last of which was primarily performed at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. While I was definitely riding the Hamilton bandwagon at the time, I preferred Be More Chill — and still do — because it was easier for me to understand and connect with the characters and their struggles. Then, in 2019, Be More Chill got an upgrade (pun intended) to an official Broadway production! Unfortunately, I never got around to watching it live for a number of reasons — the two big ones being the ticket prices and the fact that I hate change. Moreover, by the time the soundtrack had dropped on streaming services, I was on a long hiatus from my musical theater phase, and I didn’t like the fact that two of my favorite actors had been replaced in the updated Broadway cast. However, now that my bias has worn off and I’ve re-entered my musical theater phase, I thought I’d take a look at what changed and what stayed the same between the Two River Theatre and Broadway productions.

The Cast

As stated previously, the main thing that turned me off at the time of Be More Chill’s Broadway production was the fact that the actors who played my two favorite characters, Jeremy Heere (played by Will Connolly) and the SQUIP (played by Eric William Morris) had been replaced by Will Roland and Jason Tam, respectively. I understood why they’d cast Roland, seeing as he’d played the character of Jared Kleinman in Dear Evan Hansen. But, considering Jared was largely disliked by Dear Evan Hansen’s fandom, my expectations for how he was going to handle performing as Jeremy were somewhat low. Consequently, I didn’t really think to give him another chance until I found out he was in the Goosebumps musical, and I ended up really liking his performance as Zeke, the best friend of the show’s protagonist. However, once I finally listened to the Broadway cast soundtrack and saw his performance as Jeremy for myself, I actually came to really enjoy the way he handled the nuances of Jeremy’s character and all of the little ways he was able to distinguish his performance from Connolly’s.

Tam’s performance as the SQUIP was also one I had to get used to, though it was more because I was attached to Morris’ performance as the SQUIP and the fact that I generally hate change. However, after both listening to and watching his performance, I can see why they ended up changing the actors. While Morris’ SQUIP certainly had his comedic moments, on the whole, he was more overtly malevolent and calculating, which probably isn’t the best direction to take when the SQUIP is meant to look and sound like Keanu Reeves. Meanwhile, Tam’s performance as the SQUIP is much more laidback and subtle in its manipulation of Jeremy throughout the play, which helped to sell the whole Keanu Reeves illusion a lot better, even while Tam was strutting around the stage in his bright white sci-fi getup.

Be More Chill - Jason Tam, Will Roland, and Lauren Marcus, Broadway
Photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki

The Music

The problem with cast-recording albums is that they usually lack the rawness of a live performance — the actors are likely autotuned or pitch-corrected to some degree, and the heightened emotions that come with an on-stage performance just don’t hit the same when the actors are singing in a recording studio. However, between the Two River and Broadway albums, I do think the Two River album does a better job of bridging that gap. The actors’ performances on the Two River album are much more understated and grounded in the world of the musical. In contrast,  on the Broadway cast album, everyone’s singing is ever so slightly exaggerated to the point where their performances are a bit uncanny.

This was most apparent in the song “Michael in the Bathroom”. The song puts Michael Mell (played by George Salazar in both productions) alone in someone’s bathroom during a Halloween party, singing about how he’s lost Jeremy’s friendship as a result of Jeremy’s attempts to achieve popularity among his peers. On the Two River album, Salazar’s performance is appropriately toned down and mournful, with his voice even cracking in some places to really sell how upset Michael is at losing his best friend. On the Broadway album, however, his performance is largely the same, but his voice has taken on a slight nasally tone and the way he sings the lyrics is exaggerated enough that it loses that somber tone the song should have.

“Michael in the Bathroom” – Be More Chill (Two River Theater Cast Recording)

One thing I did appreciate about the Broadway cast recording was how they added extra dialogue and short song reprisals, or changed certain lines to provide additional information for those who hadn’t — or couldn’t — see the show in person. For example, in the Broadway version of “More than Survive”, there are extra lines added about how Jeremy’s dad refuses to wear pants in between verses, whereas in the Two River album, those lines aren’t included at all. The Broadway soundtrack also adds two new songs, “Sync Up” and “Loser Geek Whatever”, which each serve to flesh out the personalities and struggles of the side characters and delve deeper into Jeremy’s mindset, explaining why he ultimately chooses to prioritize achieving popularity at the cost of his friendship with Michael.

My main gripe with the Broadway soundtrack is that the actual music of the songs did seem overproduced at times, with a lot of little things being added here and there to the instrumentation of the songs that just didn’t hit the same way as the Two River soundtrack, like the additional sci-fi sound effects in “More than Survive” or the rock segments in “Pitiful Children”. Although I definitely appreciate the changes made to many of the songs’ lyrics in the Broadway soundtrack, the Two River soundtrack takes the cake in terms of which album’s overall sound I enjoyed more.

Which One Do I Prefer?

Honestly, I like them both more or less the same amount! They both have their own strengths and weaknesses, such as the Two River’s performances and instrumentation being more understated and down-to-earth, and the Broadway production’s polished lyrics and excellent casting and on-stage performances. Although the smaller Two River production will always have a special place in my heart, I’ve reached a point where I’m okay with Be More Chill becoming a fancy-schmancy Broadway musical, and I can finally enjoy it on its own terms without any preemptive negative biases.

Trina Kolas

UC Riverside '25

Howdy! I'm a creative writing major and English minor at UCR, and I plan to become a published author and a screenwriter/showrunner in the future! I love writing original stories and fanfiction, and I listen to a lot of Mother Mother, Hypnosis Microphone, and Broadway musicals. My goal is to save up for a proper gaming computer so my laptop doesn't spontaneously combust whenever I try to play Portal or Legends of Runeterra on it.