Be More Chill
Lyceum Theatre, New York City, (212) 239-6200
By normal critical standards, the latest teen-focused musical to reach Broadway rates as “the worst of the lot,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. But if the history of the production is any measure, its flaws won’t dampen enthusiasm for the show, which is based on a young-adult novel about a high school loser who swallows a pill-size supercomputer that’s supposed to make him cooler. Critics panned the original stage incarnation when it premiered at a regional theater four years ago. The cast album, though, went viral, racking up 150 million streams and “a staggering number” of social media tributes. The show hasn’t matured much since: It still features a repetitive score, “painfully forced” rhymes, and “a general approach that mistakes decibel level for emotional intensity.” But Be More Chill’s amateurishness—“its very lack of chillness”—may be what young fans love about it.
Our hero’s use of ingestible tech very predictably goes awry, said Sara Holdren in New York. But this show is “canny about its use of formula,” and it features “bang-up” performances. In the lead role, Will Roland has “just the right combination of nerd vibes and killer voice.” But Jason Tam steals the show as the snarky computer entity that takes up residence in our hero’s brain: “He’s like the nefarious nanobot offspring of Cher and Ming the Merciless.” The contrived outrageousness is fine for kids, said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. Still, for the benefit of those outside that target audience, Be More Chill’s producers should consider including an advisory in their Playbills: “Some material might not be suitable for adults.” ■