I am an unapologetic fan of social media. I know it comes laden with some caustic social downsides, but it is a powerful tool. A medium so powerful in fact, it can breathe a minor player of a musical back into existence with every tag, share, stream, and post. Such is the story behind Be More Chill, the show 48 of us happily gathered to see last night at my new favorite off Broadway theater venue: The Signature Theater.
This show, based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, debuted in the summer of 2015 for a six week run at the Two River Theater in New Jersey. The reviews of this riff on teenage transformation were positive, but sadly not enough to fuel a longer run or further productions. They recorded a cast album and the talents involved in the production went on to to do other talented things. And that was that, but not really! With no marketing plan, no promotional budget, and no social media strategy team, Be More Chill was pumped back into existence thanks to a maelstrom of, no doubt teenage infused, social media affection.
No one knows the identity of “patient zero” (to borrow the medical term). Who was the first media maven that kicked off this viral sensation? I don’t know, but I’d like to thank he or she or them for bringing this show back to life! Talk about a market driven phenomena!
Said market was sitting right in front of us in the audience in the form of 4 teenage girls acting out every possible stereotype of teenage girl fandom. They squealed, they hugged, they screamed, they gasped and sighed, and cried, and clutched each other’s arms and embraced often throughout the show. They knew every word and every song and swooned as if love struck when various actors made their entrances.
The talent assembled on that stage, culled from many of the shows this group has seen together (Will Roland from Dear Evan Hansen and Stephanie Hsu from SpongeBob SquarePants to name a couple), would appeal to anyone in any age bracket. Seriously amazing performance by Stephanie Hsu! I was captivated by the energy she put forth on that stage.
I have heard the now infamous “Michael in the Bathroom” song many a time thanks to my Dear Evan Hansen Pandora feed, but was reminded last night how hearing and feeling are two wildly different things. Seeing George Salazar perform this song on stage is something to be experienced. Teenage angst on steroids, beautifully portrayed and performed. Bravo to you George and thank you for liking my daughters insta post after the show – could you hear her screams of joy?!?!
When the show ended the teenage girls in front of us sprinted out of their seats to be first in line for the very up close and personal actor meet and greet (which my kids would later join). Musical theater definitely needs this youth infused injection of energy – we need the next generation of theater geeks to be born now. It’s shows like this that will do that and keep this genre of entertainment alive and well and spirited.
Our group had a smattering of teenagers, but was largely composed of adults. The teenagers were beside themselves watching this show (as well they should be for the teenage focus of the story) and they ensconced themselves in the cast meet and greet after the show.
Many of the adults were equally gleeful, because hey we were teenagers too back in the day! Who wouldn’t be drawn to a quick fix pass to the elusive world of teenage popularity and all the benefits that entails? But would you leave your best friend behind? And what would you do when you discover your quick fix is threatening to take over the school (and then the world)? To find out how our hero tackles these issues, you’ll have to see the show…
Thanks to the throngs of social media support and the tsunami size cult following Be More Chill is moving to Broadway! I feel so fortunate to have seen it in this small and intimate space. I can’t wait to see what decisions get made as they move the production to the larger stage. And I will be bringing my brood back to see it on Broadway in April. My daughter is disappointed she has to wait so long to see this show again… But given that the show might never have been at all, I think she can handle the wait.
If you’d like to join us for the Grab Your Group and GO afternoon at Be More Chill follow this link to subscribe to the Grab Your Group and GO – to the Theater newsletter! (The newsletter emails are independent of the blog post emails).
We’d love to see you there!