A Broadway Upgrade: Talk About Be More Chill with Kaitlin Gibson

I love Broadway. If you asked me for one specific reason, it would be outside of my power to give you just one. You see, when I say I love Broadway, I mean it. I love the city, I love seeing shows, I love getting involved in the characters’ stories, and I love how music and dance can be intertwined throughout this storytelling process.

On Tuesday, May 28, I got the privilege to see Be More Chill as a part of the cultural immersion trip. To be honest, I walked in fully expecting to come out a little disappointed. I enjoy more classical musicals as opposed to contemporary musicals because I prefer the music. Because of this, I was clouded with doubts that the show would be good. I chose it, though, because I knew some of the story and I had listened to some of the music. I also knew about the cult-following behind Be More Chill and the fame it would soon get, making it evident this opportunity could not be passed up. So I went, not expecting much of this seemingly weird musical. Walking out of the show, and even during intermission, I knew how wrong I was.

Be More Chill follows the story of Jeremy, a self-proclaimed loser whose only wish is to become cool enough to “survive” his cliquey high school, and to impress his crush. So, as fate would have it, he is approached by his bully and is informed of something known as a “S.Q.U.I.P,” a Japanese pill that attaches to your brain and takes over in order for the host to become “more chill.” Desperate, Jeremy takes it and his world changes. The “S.Q.U.I.P” isolates him from his life-long friend, Michael,  and forces him to become something he is not in order to survive high school. But, the S.Q.U.I.P is power hungry and tries to take over the mind of the entire student body, with Jeremy’s help.

At first look, this show may seem odd, weird, and super nerdy. It is, but that is what makes it so interesting. It has a plot that is different from everything else currently on Broadway. Be More Chill offers insight into the mind of all kids struggling through adolescence. It exhibits its lead character while also highlighting the insecurities of characters of lesser importance. It shows how everyone is desperate for answers in this time of growth, and the distance some will go to achieve peace of mind.

But, what makes this show so good is the supreme power of its cast. Not only does the small ensemble of Be More Chill excel vocally and in acting technique, but the entire cast displays a great ability to dance. I, for one, am a terrible dancer. Despite this setback, I admire the ambition and talent that comes with this ability and I loved how the choreography was used to tell the story, specifically the very robotic and firm movements that were used to describe the S.Q.U.I.P.

Be More Chill not only features an amazing cast and interesting story, but it has depth to its characters, displayed through costuming and other aspects of their character. For example, the majority of the ensemble that makes up the student body, with the exception of Michael and Jeremy, wears gaudy and flashy clothing. Michael and Jeremy, however, wear more sedated and plain clothes. While this detail may seem insignificant, it goes to show the volumes of isolation that these two “losers” feel amongst the flashy, bright popular kids. One character, Christine Conigula, also shows how she is different from everyone else in her costuming. Christine wears all colors. She does not stick to one type, she is neither overly gaudy or boringly plain, she is her own type, resembling her character’s personality. The most prominent growth is shown in the S.Q.U.I.P’s costume changes throughout the show. When he is introduced and begins his conquest of Jeremy’s mind, the S.Q.U.I.P’s costuming is futuristic looking without becoming too over the top. As the play goes on, and his control over Jeremy grows, his costuming become more extravagant to display his power. The play moves on this way, with the S.Q.U.I.P’s costuming growing more elegant as he holds power over not only Jeremy, but the entire cast of the school play. This costume growth mirrors how strong the antagonist becomes as Jeremy upgrades and rises higher on the school’s social ladder.

This show, which I had thought would be a total flop, has seemed to offer more for its audience to ruminate over, even after the curtain has closed. Be More Chill is a different type of show for Broadway to welcome. It is not strictly romantic or comedic, and while it may stray to sci-fi, it still holds other elements to it, such as angst and drama. It is a genre of its own, and this speaks to the power that it has to enchant and delight its audience throughout what I am sure will be a very long run at New York’s Lyceum Theatre.

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