‘Be More Chill’ takes creative risks to teach life lessons


Jason Leibfried

"Be More Chill" was introduced to Broadway on March 10. The show is based on the novel by Ned Vizzini about a junior who is a social outcast in high school.

What would you do if you had the opportunity to take a pill? But not just any pill – a pill that would make you popular, help you make all the right decisions, and win over your crush. A pill that would help you “be more chill”. Would you take it?

I recently saw the Broadway Musical “Be More Chill” at the Lyceum Theatre in New York on March 21, about a week after opening night. The show, based on the novel of the same title by Ned Vizzini, revolves around junior Jeremy Heere played by Will Roland who is a social outcast in high school.

Heere takes a pill called SQUIP in order to become popular and “be more chill” so he is able to date his crush, Christine Canigula.

Directed by the newcomer to the Broadway stage, Stephen Brackett, with catchy songs written by Joe Iconis, this musical teaches us that the best version of ourselves is actually the person we really are. There will always be people on the outside influencing us, but we should be ourselves and make our own decisions.

The cast of the musical was extremely talented. With a small cast of 10 actors and actresses making up the various characters in the show, the cast had enough talent and energy to be as powerful as shows with a huge cast. Leads Will Rolland (“Dear Evan Hansen”), George Salazar (“Godspell”), Stephanie Hsu (“Spongebob Squarepants The Musical”), and Jason Tam (“If/Then” and “Les Miserables”) were extremely talented, as well as the other cast members.

The interpretations of the characters were unique compared to the book, but still carried the same energy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephanie Hsu and George Salazar get nominated, if not win, the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor and Best Featured Actress.

Arguably, the weakest part of the musical was the plot and book. Act I of the show was really strong, showing all of the positive things the SQUIP has done to Heere. Act II was vastly different, about all the negative aspects of high school and the SQUIP. The subplots and new plot points added to Act II lasted for about one or two scenes and seemed to add nothing to the show and besides overwhelming the audience with information not important to the story.

The songs of the show were really enjoyable and I found myself singing “Michael in the Bathroom” and “More than Survive” as I walked out of the theatre. While there were a few songs, such as the songs I mentioned above, most of the other songs in the show were slow and felt like they added nothing to the story. The orchestrations were really cool, and there were some unique instruments playing in the background of scenes.

While parts of the plot and book of the show were lacking in some areas, the production design of the show was present in a very cool way. The theatre had surround sound, where voices from the actors would be heard in certain parts of the theatre, creating a 360-like experience.

The sound presenting the live orchestra into the audience was perfect with no technical issues. The lights were also colorful and complex, fitting the mood. Lighting is tricky as you want it to be complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex that it takes away from the show.

With “Be More Chill” taking place in modern-day America, most of the costumes were casual, everyday wear: jeans, t-shirts, and pajamas. The costumes were more colorful than usual, fitting the colorful style the show takes with lighting.

One of the highlights of the show was the costumes that the SQUIP wore. At the start of the show, they wore white and light grays, but as the show progressed and the character grew a darker personality, the costumes and makeup grew more elaborate and darker, with the final costume being almost all black. It was a really nice detail that added so much to the show, that most people would not have noticed.

The set was the highlight of the show. With the show revolving around a supercomputer and a video-game obsessed teen, the set was technology-based, with the proscenium arch of the stage having the same shape of a computer and the stage floor having computer wires weaving around. The masking borders had the same design and were able to move around, allowing actors and set pieces to enter on them.

The projections added to the set complimented it perfectly by adding life, like creating a fire effect during “The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)” song or adding video game effects during the song “Two-Player Game”. It was the perfect mix of a flashy and highly theatrical set, like seen in “Aladdin,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Dear Evan Hansen”.

“Be More Chill,” with its high-energy cast and amazing set, is surely a musical that you will not regret seeing. While the show does lack a strong plot, the production design of the show makes up for it completely and you shouldn’t be surprised if this musical takes a few nominations at the 2019 Tony Awards, such as Best Musical.

The production took some creative risks that ultimately won me over in the end, and with an extremely talented group of performers, this classic tale of a teenager on their attempt to become popular in high school was an overall success.