The off Broadway musical “Be More Chill” is ending its run on Sept. 30, before making its Broadway debut in February 2019. In the meantime, Sinclair’s theater department is bringing the relatively new musical to Sinclair College on Oct. 5-13.
The musical’s music and lyrics were composed by Joe Iconis and began its run off Broadway in 2015. Following the original run, the musical soared in popularity and due to fan support on social media it was brought back for another run that was completely sold out.
It is based off the 2004 book of the same name written by Ned Vizzini.
The story focuses on Jeremy, a social outcast who longs to be “cool” that joins the school play to get closer to his crush Christine.
Later on the school bully, Rich, tells Jeremy about a pill called the “super quantum unit intel processor,” or “SQUIP.” It implants itself in the brain of the host and tells them how to act.
Rich tells Jeremy how the device made him popular and encourages him to get one. He talks it over with his best friend Michael and reassures him that they’ll always be friends. With his blessing, Jeremy buys a SQUIP for himself. From there, antics happen due to the hold the SQUIP has over Jeremy’s mind.
The Sinclair production of the musical brings together several talented personnel from Dayton and graduates from the college.
“Be More Chill” is directed by Chris Harmon, a prominent figure in the Dayton theater community. Some of his previous accolades including contributing designs of productions to several local theaters, such as the Beavercreek Community Theatre, Dayton Playhouse and the Town Hall Theatre.
He has won 54 DayTony awards (which is a record according to the Dayton Daily News) and was the youngest member to be inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame in 2013.
This is not his first time working at Sinclair, as in the past he has directed “Blood at the Root,” “The Toxic Avenger” and “The Wiz.”
Harmon spoke about how this production differed from others he’s directed at Sinclair:
“It’s so new, and fresh and I’ve done other musicals here… and I think this one has a good social message and theme, but it’s really just a lot of fun and feels very contemporary,” Harmon said.
“Be More Chill” has many more musical numbers than an average production at Sinclair, and with that includes the need for choreography. Frequent Sinclair collaborator Rodney Veal is in charge of that aspect of the play.
Sinclair graduates involved in the production include Lighting Designer Marissa Childress (who also graduated from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) and Stage Manager Brian Morgan (a graduate of Ball State University).
Another person of interest is Sarah Parrott, the sound designer of the musical. All of the sound effects and voice clips are found or created from scratch by her. She also handles getting microphones on the actors and pit orchestra.
She is a second year Sinclair student that has participated in national competition, including the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). She won an award of merit and a presenter award.
Due to this, she has the rare privilege of being a student in the designer position. She’s very excited to show off her talents in one of Sinclair’s biggest productions of the year.
“I am very thankful to have gotten the opportunity to design not only plays here at Sinclair but a musical here as well,” Parrott said. “We don’t do a musical every year, so to have that opportunity… I am stoked.”
Along with those behind the scenes, the actors on the stage are excited and have much to say about the show.
Anthony Dell‘Aria leads the cast as Jeremy, while Michael is played by Micah Koverman. Katelyn Pennington plays Christine, Rachel Charles plays Chloe and Jared Setser plays the SQUIP.
Setser spoke about the uniqueness of the music and a real world connection that can be made about the nature of the SQUIP:
“The music is interesting… it’s sort of like a rock musical, but it’s also a musical,” Setser said. “A big thing today that we have to ask ourselves about is A.I., and this is something that could happen in our future.”
Charles spoke about her personal feelings toward the musical:
“I love [“Be More Chill”] because I can relate, I feel like I was the Jeremy in my high school… everyone’s gonna be able to relate to this at some point,” Charles said. “It definitely hits on some real topics kids struggle with nowadays.”
Pennington spoke about the importance of the musical’s message to younger viewers:
“It’s a show that needs to be seen,” Pennington said. “It’s something that teenagers need to see because it talks a lot about a person’s identity during high school, which is already a big issue because people always find themselves questioning where they belong and where they fit in.”
“Be More Chill” also expands past the theater department, as Sinclair recently started a book club, where the novel by Vizzini will be discussed. The library has physical and electronic copies of the book available to borrow.
There will be a discussion group on the novel Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. at the Blair Hall Lobby in building 2.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as a 2 p.m. show on Sunday, Oct. 7 and a Throwback Thursday event on Oct. 11 where all tickets cost $10.
Sinclair’s production of “Be More Chill” promises entertaining musical numbers and a fun, engaging story for some of the younger students in the college.
In a rare case, Daytonians have the opportunity to see a Broadway musical four months before it hits the big stage, and the cast and crew members encourage you to come out and see it.