A fan favorite musical with a Tony Award-nominated score, Broadway’s Be More Chill has taken audiences by storm since opening on the Great White Way in March of 2019. But the show’s undeniable success from Off-Broadway gem to Broadway baby would never be possible without the power of social media. In fact, the musical — which heavily incorporates social media and internet culture into its plot — was brought to life by online fans who fell down a rabbit hole into the show’s score.
From Humble Beginnings
When it first premiered, Be More Chill was far from a hit. After a four week run in New Jersey in 2015, the show failed to garner enough praise from the press and audiences to propel it to greater stages. But that production’s cast recording, according to Fast Company, was then posted online. Young theater fans soon found it and became obsessed, sharing it all over social media and spreading the tunes of Be More Chill far and wide. From YouTube videos to Twitter rants, talk about the show was rapid, all because of fans sharing it online. At its lowest point, social media revived Be More Chill from a quiet musical theater death, giving it the opportunity to live once again for the pleasure of Gen Z fans.
It makes sense that the show made its way to Broadway because of social media. Its plot, after all, incorporates just that: Be More Chill tells the story of Jeremy Heere, a high school just trying to survive teenage life, who is completely changed when Squips — a form of nanocomputers — take over.
Revived by Social Media
After going viral online, the show’s off-Broadway run in 2018 was a huge success. Once again, largely because of social media. The show’s marketing team regularly interacted with fans online, sharing their fan art and covers and making them feel seen and heard within the Be More Chill community. Musicals targeted to teens usually do just so: Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls are two more examples of musicals using social media to generate buzz among Gen Z. But what Be More Chill has accomplished is much more than just reach. Through the power of social media, they’ve created one of the most dedicated fan bases on Broadway today, filled with young folk ready to stand up for the musical when need be, such as this year’s Tony Awards.
The Tony Awards Dispute
At the 2019 Tony Awards, Be More Chill was nominated for Best Score. To the upset of many, the show was snubbed in mostly every category. But the one honor for score writer Joe Iconis was certainly something to be celebrated. Unfortunately, due to budget reasons, the show was unable to perform on the live telecast. Instead, host James Corden performed a version of Be More Chill’s hit song “Michael in the Bathroom” with some Broadway veterans during the telecast. Fans were so happy to see the tribute…until they realized that the show was never mentioned in it.
Those familiar with the musical knew the tune, of course, but those just tuning in to the Tony Awards had no idea the rewritten song was originally from Be More Chill. Some on Twitter found the performance to be a slap in the face, failing to truly honor the genius of the show. And so, the Be More Chill fanbase took off.
In the day following the Tony Awards, social media was filled with messages from Be More Chill fans — including members of the industry — about the misstep that Corden and the Tonys had made. And they made sure their voices were heard loud and clear, so much so that within a day, Corden gave credit to Be More Chill for the song. Without social media, that likely would have never happened.
Paying Attention to Be More Chill’s Example
Be More Chill might not be a show for everyone and every age audience member. But despite your thoughts on the musical, it’s impossible to deny the fact that the team behind it did an excellent job at creating the tightest knit online community of fans. Not only did they fight for the show to get the honor it deserved from this years Tony Awards, but with social media, fans — from elementary school children to high schoolers and older — brought the show to life. Be More Chill serves as a clear example of how future musicals can succeed in the future by adapting and adjusting to the digital age.