By: Jeremy Nifras, Copy Editor

Typically in high school, the unspoken ambition of every student is to become well-liked by his or her peers, and to varying extents, become popular. In the new off-Broadway musical Be More Chill, these ambitions are framed within an upbeat, satirical lens, with an interesting science-fiction twist.

That might sound like a mouthful at first, but the show, created by composer Joe Iconis and script writer Joe Tracz, blends the worlds of teenage anxiety and science fiction with ease. Based on a Ned Vizzini novel of the same name, Be More Chill follows protagonist Jeremy Heere (portrayed by Will Roland), a high school junior who’s desperate to climb his school’s social ladder, and receives help from a “SQUIP,” a supercomputer contained in a pill that instructs Jeremy on how to act cooler. As you might expect, the results soon become disastrous, but the growing conflict is made much more palatable by Joe Iconis’ extremely catchy, rock-influenced musical numbers.

If you’ve never heard of Be More Chill, and are somewhat interested in diving into the world of the musical headfirst, listening to the cast recording on Spotify is a good place to start: millions of people around the world have done exactly this, and in turn, transformed the show into a viral internet sensation. The show was officially ranked the second most popular musical on Tumblr last year behind Hamilton (obviously), and the musical’s devoted, obsessed legion of fans catapulted the show from a small, humble New Jersey-based production in 2015, to the wider off-Broadway production going on today.

As popular and fun as the show’s cast album may be, seeing Be More Chill in person is a far more enthralling, complete experience. Among the musical’s best numbers is the ambitious opening song “More Than Survive,” which spotlights Jeremy’s desperation to no longer be seen as an outcast by his classmates, and to get with his longtime crush, Christine (portrayed by Stephanie Hsu). Another fan favorite is the roaring, infectious “The Smartphone Hour,” which includes nearly every member of the cast onstage at once, and features the most electric, eye-popping choreography within the entire show.

 

 

I was initially skeptical towards whether Will Roland would be able to pull off the musical’s leading role of Jeremy (he’s probably more known for comedic relief roles), but his complex, often-times intense performance definitely proved me wrong, especially during the epic solo number “Loser Geek Whatever,” which brings Act 1 to a dramatic close. The song was co-written by Joe Iconis and Roland himself, and it shows; I couldn’t imagine another performer besides him doing that song justice.

Although Roland’s performance was indeed exceptional, the rest of the cast were definitely just as exciting to watch. It would be disrespectful not to mention George Salazar’s performance as Jeremy’s best friend Michael Mell, whose solo song “Michael In The Bathroom” remains the show’s most emotionally powerful moment. Also worth mentioning is Tiffany Mann, who plays the hyper, gossip-loving Jenna Rolan, and Gerard Canonico’s portrayal of the arrogant, buff school bully Rich Goranski was equally impressive (he in particular contributes to the show’s more intensive dance breaks).

Be More Chill has attracted fans from all across the globe, with some international fans flying into New York City, specifically to see the musical. If you’re thinking of seeing the show for yourself, you might want to put those plans on hold, as tickets for the musical’s entire two-month run have completely sold out. However, it was recently announced the show will soon be moving to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre beginning in February, which means more fans than ever before will have a chance to see the show for themselves.

There’s something deeply special about Be More Chill that not too many musicals out there quite accomplish. Through composer Joe Iconis and writer Joe Tracz’ partnership, they created a musical which speaks to the hidden insecurities and thoughts of many American teenagers: more specifically, the voice in the back of your high school self that goes, “Why can’t I be cool like them?” Be More Chill teaches us that being “cool” or “chill” isn’t what’s important in the long run, and that instead, you should focus on what brings you joy in the present, like your family, close friends, or inner passions. With social media being as omnipresent as it is, teenage anxieties about social situations have gotten much worse, but Be More Chill tells us not to worry; as Michael proclaims in the song “Two-Player Game,” you’ll actually be much cooler in college.”