Maybe only high school students or recent graduates should review “Be More Chill," the raucous, noisy musical that has moved from off-Broadway success to hot ticket sales on Broadway. It is clearly aimed at young audiences, and judging by the loud cheering on the afternoon when I saw the show, “Be More Chill” is wowing its targeted crowd.
As for older folk, beware. The super-loud electronically oriented pop music and mostly witless lyrics are by Joe Iconis, and the book about high school angst by Joe Tracz is baed on Ned Vizzini’s novel. And there is plenty of angst to go around. The show is directed with the needed tumult by Stephen Brackett, and the rowdy choreography is by Chase Brook, with set designer Beowulf Boritt, costume designer Bobby Frederick Tilley II, lighting designer Tyler Micoleau, sound designer Ryan Rumery and projection designer Alex Basco Koch teaming to provide the overwhelming eye-popping glitter and eardrum banging that add up to proficiency in delivering this kind of hit.
The cast does its job big-time, eliciting loud applause for solo numbers from the adoring audience members who act as if they are experiencing euphoria.
The basic plot has a familiar ring. Jeremy Heere, played by an appealing Will Roland, is a loser at the suburban New Jersey high school where the saga is located. So is Stephanie Hsu as the cute but hapless Christine Canigula, who seeks acceptance by acting in a school show. Jeremy is sweet on her, and life for both will change. The way forward for Jeremy is a computerized pill called The Squip, personified by Jason Tam, that gets into Jeremy’s head and leads the way.
Some of the songs provide an idea of what’s afoot. Jeremy gets cheers for his dynamic first act closer, “Loser Geek Whatever.” Sidekick Michael, played by an audience favorite, George Salazar, belts “Michael in the Bathroom.” Jeremy’s lethargic single dad stays at home in his underwear, which becomes the excuse for “The Pants Song,” sung by dad (Jason SweetTooth Williams) and Michael.
Christine has a big solo, “A Guy That I’d Kinda Be Into,” reprised with Jeremy. The second act opens comically with a garishly costumed “Halloween.” Of course there is the title number “Be More Chill.” By the time Jeremy, backed by the ensemble, ended the show with a rousing “Voices in My Head,” the young audience members at the performance I attended were afire with enthusiasm. I do have one optimistic takeaway: anything that introduces a younger generation to the theater is a plus, I guess. At the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed March 15, 2019.