New Discoveries: Joe Iconis’ ‘Be More Chill’ Original Cast Recording Review
I was recently made aware of an amazing new(ish) musical that has invaded my brain and I thought I would return the favor and share it with all of you pitiful children. It’s called Be More Chill. Based on the 2004 Ned Vizzini novel of the same name, the story revolves around high school nobody Jeremy Heere (Will Connolly, Once) who takes a pill containing a microcomputer (Eric William Morris, Coram Boy) known as a Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor (S.Q.U.I.P.) in order to become less of a loser. Be More Chill was written by Joe Iconis (music and lyrics) and Joe Tracz (book). The musical originated at the Two Rivers Theater in early 2015 and was directed by Stephen Brackett. The soundtrack was released by Ghostlight Records in Dec 2015.
The story isn’t anything new. Like Little Shop of Horrors, Faust and The Monkey’s Paw, this cautionary tale of the true price of fame and power has been told time and time again. What makes the show standout though is the wealth of charm and talent that oozes from the cast, crew, creative team and source material. Joe Iconis and the cast find a way of taking a story that you have already heard before and making you want to hear it again and again.
Just like a S.Q.U.I.P. the songs from Be More Chill will crawl up inside your brain and stay there. But unlike the show’s villainous miracle worker, these songs belong in your skull.
Be More Chill doesn’t sound like your traditional musical but you can definitely tell that it was made by someone who has a deep love and respect for musical theater. For just one example take the track “The Smartphone Hour,” which serves as a modern day homage to Bye Bye Birdie’s, “The Telephone Hour.”
Playing like a concept record, with only a few plot points missing from the lryics, the record can certainly stand alone as a great work of art.
If you were to tone down the ensemble and up the raunch factor one or two notches the record wouldn’t sound much different than something out the pre-Fall Out Boy pop punk or neo-new wave genres.
Personally when I listen to the soundtrack I am immediately taken back to my late teens, early 20’s (circa 2000-2006) when my nights spent either playing or partying at the local punk rock/indie venues. I am reminded of when I was helping run a small, underloved, Myrtle Beach music venue that once hosted Wheatus (Name Dropped!), with the show invoking the theme of hope for the hopeless found in their 2000 hit “Teenage Dirtbag.”
The show’s opening number, “More Than Survive,” sets the tone for the whole album. It serves as the perfect introduction to Jeremy, his world, the supporting players and the album itself. Without overdoing the 80’s/90’s influence the record offers anyone growing up in the age of Nintendo a nice stroll down memory lane as well as a warm welcome to younger audiences from the iPod/iPhone era.
That is one of the great things about this show. It manages to tap into so many wells without drying any of them out. Be More Chill tackles all the camp and melodrama typically found in most things high school, sci fi and or horror, without coming off as too campy or overly melodramatic.
To quote the S.Q.U.I.P., “You can’t just listen, you have to obey.” Follow this advice and go out and grab yourself a copy of the original cast recording of Be More Chill today. Than go on and tell your friends, call your parents and write your congressman to help spread the world about this amazing new musical you have just discovered.
You can find a copy of Be More Chill in the back of your local Payless Shoe store or by visiting http://www.sh-k-boom.com/be-more-chill.
Album Credits (via Sh-k-Boom.com):
Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis
Book by Joe Tracz
Based on the Novel by Ned Vizzini
Orchestrator and Musical Supervisor: Charlie Rosen
Musical Director & Copyist: Nathan Dame
Produced by Kurt Deutsch, Joe Iconis & Charlie Rosen
Be More Chill stars:
Will Connolly as Jeremy
Eric William Morris as The S.Q.U.I.P.
Jake Boyd as Jake
Gerard Canonico as Rich
Katlyn Carlson as Chloe
Katie Ladner as Jenna
Lauren Marcus as Brooke
George Salazar as Michael
Paul Whitty as Jeremy’s Dad/Mr. Reyes/Scary Stockboy
Nathan Dame – Conductor and Keyboard
Danny Jonokuchi – Theremin/Trumpet
Dan McMillan – Drums/Percussion
Josh Plotner – Vocoder/Reeds
Mike Rosengarten – Guitar
Amanda Ruzza – Bass