The new musical Be More Chill examines what happens when an ordinary high schooler ingests a super computer pill (or SQUIP, Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor) that transforms him from dork to popular. Prolific composer/lyricist JOE ICONIS worked with scribe Joe Tracz to adapt Ned Vizzini’s YA novel into a retro sci-fi teen musical comedy that has tweens buzzing. Iconis, whose lengthy list of credits includes “Broadway, Here I Come” from Smash explains it all.
"Be More Chill is a show that unabashedly has a nerd hero—a principal character who is just not that special,” Iconis, who is making his Broadway debut with the musical, says. “The thing that is remarkable about our lead character is that there's nothing remarkable about him.”
The musical follows Jeremy Heere (Dear Evan Hansen vet Will Roland), a video game-obsessed kid, who is trying to navigate living with his depressed and ineffective father, being noticed by his outgoing theater girl crush, avoiding bullies and being “uncool.”
“I'd like to think that he is sort of one in a great line of nerd heroes from musicals,” Iconis says. “For me, the pinnacle of that is Seymour Krelborn in Little Shop of Horrors, which is the first musical that I ever saw. And I think because it was the first musical I ever saw, for my entire career, I probably just keep writing Seymour over and over again: These people who feel like all the world's not seeing them, and they want to be seen. They want to more than survive.”
In addition to having an everyman lead, the musical explores the idea of the outsider—a character that has resonated with audiences in everything from The Phantom of the Opera to Wicked. “I think that Be More Chill, at its core, is a celebration of people who feel different,” Iconis says. “It's a celebration of misfits and people who feel ‘other.’ Most of us, at one point or another in our lives, have felt like we don't belong—like there's not a place for us. All of the characters in the show are struggling with how to be the person that everyone thinks that they should be. It's just a relatable thing.”