Review: Be More Chill, starring Will Roland
No one could have expected that Be More Chill would make it to Broadway. Based on the late Ned Vizzini's book of the same name, the show made the leap to the Great White Way thanks to a dedicated fanbase producers who believed in the power of the show.
My first exposure to Be More Chill, like others' first introduction, was the cast album. While I did not initially impact me the way it impacted many fans, I still saw it off-Broadway last summer. While I did not became a die-hard fan after seeing it, I was intrigued about what would be changed as the show made the leap from the 294 seat Diamond Stage over Signature Theater to the 950 seat Lyceum.
And though the show retained its ten person cast, but kept the set the same, with a few additions, and the upgrade certainly works well. Most the of the changes won't be noticeable to those who didn't see the previous production, or those who don't know the album back to front. Each of the characters are further developed, and a new song called "Sync Up" has been added, which helps to push the story along, though adding to the run time of first act, which is well over an hour. The music in the show grew on me especially, and "Voices in My Head" has become one of my favorite songs from a musical.
The cast remains the same, and they are better than they were off-Broadway. Will Roland has grown in his portrayal of Jeremy, and his vocals have improved significantly since last summer. Gerard Canonico, Britton Smith, and Jason SweetTooth Williams are all doing a great work as Rich, Jake, and Mr. Heere/Mr. Reyes/Scary Stockboy, respectively. In particular, "Squip Song," sung by Canonico stood out to me more than before, and his performance has also grown.
Speaking of the Squip, Jason Tam is a highlight of the show in his portrayal of Jeremy's Squip, who is supposed to look the Keanu Reeves. He nails the "surfer dude" accent and his performance has evolved and improved since last summer.
Stephanie Hsu remains a highlight playing Christine, Jeremy's crush, while Katlyn Carlson and Lauren Marcus are both entertaining as Chloe and Brooke, respectively. Tiffany Mann, who plays Jenna, also stands out with her incredible vocals, notably during "The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire)." In my review of the off-broadway production, I noted that Mann "embodies Jenna flawlessly with killer vocals to match," which is still one hundred percent true.
The night I attended, George Salazar was out of the show, so I had the pleasure of seeing Troy Iwata in the role of Michael, who was a revelation in the part. I did enjoy Salazar's performance off-Broadway, (click here to read about it) and I was equally impressed by Iwata.
At the end of the day, Be More Chill is another musical aimed at teens. Is it perfect? No, because no show will ever be perfect. But the changes made since last summer are improvements, and the show is better than ever. So, give it a try. It may surprise you like it's surprised me.