LIKE THE OUTSIDER at the center of Be More Chill, the musical itself experienced an unlikely surge in popularity. However, unlike its central character, the show didn’t need to swallow a pill to achieve coolness. Rather, its success is largely the result of a groundswell of online support generated by the same demographic as its main characters: teenagers.

Be More Chill is the story of high schooler Jeremy Heere, who swallows a tiny supercomputer in order to raise his social standing and win the girl of his dreams. The computer, which appears as an anthropomorphized character in the show, helps Jeremy make choices that quickly change his image from that of social misfit to smooth operator.

But the show itself was less of an overnight success. Be More Chill premiered in 2015 at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J. While that production met with enthusiasm on social media, the review from The New York Times was lukewarm. It seemed that Be More Chill would only live on through its original cast recording.

Then in 2017, something unexpected began to happen. The number of online listeners started growing. Online chatter about Be More Chill built to a thunderous roar. Animated videos of the show’s songs appeared on YouTube, alongside grainy, pirated videos of the Two River production. Fans created Be More Chill wikis, blogs, vlogs, Tumblrs, Subreddits, art, fiction, and even a “dating sim.”

By 2018, the Be More Chill crew decided it might be time to bring the show back. A regional production in February at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut provided the impetus for this past summer’s smash-hit Off-Broadway production at Pershing Square Signature Center. The latter run quickly sold out, including a one-week extension. According to The New York Times, by the time the show opened, the cast recording had already been streamed more than 150 million times.

At Signature Center, Be More Chill cast members were met at the stage door by teenagers holding Playbills, posters, and other show paraphernalia, begging for autographs. Having a ticket became a highly enviable commodity. Even once it became clear that the show would have a future life, seeing it Off-Broadway bestowed bragging rights second only to having seen the premiere at Two River Theater.

When it officially opens at the Lyceum Theatre in March 2019, Be More Chill will mark the Broadway debuts of both librettist Joe Tracz and composer-lyricist Joe Iconis. Tracz also wrote the book for the recent Off-Broadway musical The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, which embarked on a national tour in early 2019. Iconis is a well-known cabaret performer, contributed two songs to the television show Smash, and wrote the musicals The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks (2008) and The Black Suits (2013). His compositions have earned him both the Jonathan Larson and Ed Kleban awards.

Despite the enthusiasm of its teenage fans, Broadway success for Be More Chill is not certain. To become a bona fide hit, the musical will need to cross over and earn support from a broader audience base. Then again, Be More Chill has already established itself as a show that defies the odds. Given its unique path to Broadway, anyone would be a fool to bet against it.

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