I know we recently discussed Be More Chill here on The Theatrical Board, but if it’s okay with you, I’d like to talk about it again. I’m not going to discuss the plot or the songs or the characters. I have this overwhelming need to talk about the show’s road to Broadway and how important its success is in the long run, especially when it comes to theatre and how it reflects younger audiences. Yes, I know there have been several articles written about similarly the same topic, but none of them really gave me the impression that they understood just how massive a deal this Broadway transfer is. I think Be More Chill is the first musical to really take the tween-young adult theatre fans seriously.
Think about it. How many shows do you know that had a rabid fanbase before its first preview? The show (based on the 2004 Ned Vizzini book) premiered at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey. The show saw some success, but then buzz about it turned quiet. That is, until the internet got a hold of the cast recording. “Michael in the Bathroom” was (in my opinion) the match that lit the “Be More Chill” fire under the asses of so many people, making them aware of this weird but heartfelt little show. I know the first time I heard George Salazar sing “Awesome party. I’m so glad I came,” I had already ordered the novel the show was based on (side note, I like to read/watch source material before delving into a musical). After reading the book, I listened to the cast recording and, like many, many others, I connected with it.
Apparently more people had connected to Be More Chill than I realized, because after being dormant for a while, Be More Chill had a comeback with a bang. The show had a second New Jersey Premiere at the Strand Theater for the Arts in 2017.
The end of the State Theater run turned into a slew of successful 54 Below engagements. Be More Chill composer Joe Iconis and George “M. Mell” Salazar performed their cabaret show Two Player Game to several New York audiences. They even recorded it live for an album! And due to the pair’s success, they’re now even taking their act on the road to the West Coast in San Francisco!
After the show’s second run in New Jersey, and the success of Two Player Game, Be More Chill announced its New York debut for a limited engagement at the Pershing Square Signature Theater. The off-Broadway run almost immediately sold out and the production was later able to extend their stay by a week and that added week sold out just as, if not more quickly.
During the sold-out off Broadway run, Be More Chill announced a Broadway transfer for this 2018-2019 Broadway season. They begin previews at the Lyceum Theater this February. I’ll be the first to admit that although beyond excited, I did not see that announcement coming. However, once it was made, I felt a huge sense of pride. Not only because this weird little show went from obscure musical to the hottest ticket in town in what feels like a really short time, but because of the way this show did that.
Based on my experiences, most shows come to Broadway and then find a fanbase. And most shows off-Broadway get to Broadway because of producers and critical acclaim. Be More Chill did something a little different. I firmly believe that the producers and writers of Be More Chill took into account how loyal their fanbase is when deciding to come to Broadway. What other show do you know of that didn’t have much of a life until the internet got involved? If I’m not mistaken, this is the first musical to go viral in that way. This Broadway transfer is a huge win for the youths of the theatre community. A show we chose, we love, and we supported is coming to Broadway because it is what we wanted. I am so interested in seeing how the Broadway run succeeds because if it goes as well as we hope it will, I think it’ll make more people in the industry take us seriously.
(Photo credit Sara Krulwich.)