Joe Iconis exploded out of N.Y.U. on a wave of hope. A songwriter with a knack for story and a taste for strange, he won the Jonathan Larson grant for early career composers. He scooped up the Kleban prize for most promising lyricist. He was hailed by Newsday as “ginormously talented.”
But something wasn’t clicking. Year after year he wrote song after song, show after show. Small-scale productions came and went; big-time producers did not.
He sustained himself on determination. And side jobs. And borrowed money.
But mostly, he sustained himself with an unusual artistic collective — the Family, an evolving cohort of multitalented misfits (their word) — that, for more than a decade, has plied basements and barns, singing Mr. Iconis’s rock- and pop-influenced songs to a growing audience of fans.
It is fandom that is finally propelling Mr. Iconis to Broadway.
The sci-fi high school musical “Be More Chill,” for which he wrote music and lyrics, was left for dead in New Jersey after a tepid review from The New York Times. Resurrection has come thanks to young enthusiasts, who created YouTube videos using the show’s music, shared fan art on Tumblr, and have streamed the cast album more than 200 million times.