Hello everyone! Today I am going to review two musicals in one post! Be More Chill and The Phantom of the Opera.
I saw both of these musicals on Broadway during my recent trip to New York City. I wanted to review them both for you guys here, as they were quite fun! Actually, I have to thank my little sister, affectionately known to me as Pillow, for the trip. This was completely due to her that it happened. She really wanted to see Be More Chill and when it was announced the musical was closing she wanted to go see it and invited me along! Her roommate and her roommate’s mom actually came as well with us so we chose to see The Phantom of the Opera as a musical together.
Why two musical reviews in one post? Well, because I have already reviewed The Phantom of the Opera in another post when I saw it for the first time in Chicago back in 2016. So that one will be a little shorter and not a “full” review so if you want the full version you’ll need to click that link there to be taken way back to it (during my very first Blogmas!).
The Phantom of the Opera
Wow, this musical was amazing on Broadway! We saw this one as our Saturday evening performance and I have to admit, I was worried I’d regret repeating it instead of seeing something new. I was completely wrong! Phantom was just a whole different experience in New York City. I’m not saying the touring version I saw was bad by any means, because that was amazing too, but in NYC they’ve really made the theatre into what they need for it.
For example, in the tour version they have a structure that gets moved on and off stage that serves as the “rooms” and then it can spin around and such but in this version they could use the entire stage. I remember I wasn’t impressed by that in the tour version because it was limiting but I figured it was a time thing where they could set it off stage and then keep the story moving. I did like the openness of the Broadway version more.
Our seats were better in NYC too so that was a whole new experience. Because some of the staging is high up, in Chicago we missed some stuff because of the mezzanine hanging over our seats in the dress circle. This time we were at the front of the mezzanine so we were able to see everything and it was fabulous!
I also liked the staging better and props used. I felt that because it was a more open area than before there was just more room for elaborate scenes. I loved the Phantom’s lair a ton, the masquerade scene was jaw dropping, and the chandelier falling was magnificent. The costumes were beautiful and I loved that Christine spent less time on the floor than she did in Chicago.
Overall, I loved both times I saw this musical but I did enjoy the Broadway version more. I think because it’s just so established into that theatre that it was just a different level of production and I really loved it. I would highly recommend!
Be More Chill
As I said, my sister wanted to see this musical so I went with her, not really knowing anything about the musical. We actually ended up going to the very last show, and I quickly saw that no one in the audience really seemed to have much chill at all. In fact, the girl in the row behind me sobbed the entire musical. I admired her passion but since I was pretty dehydrated at this point I was also kinda annoyed that she was wasting so much water like that. Many people came dressed up as some of the characters which was pretty cool to see the outfits.
Be More Chill was written by Joe Iconis based on a book by the same title. The idea is that everyone who is able to successfully navigate social situations has taken a “squip” which is a microcomputer that implants itself into one’s brain and tells them how to act. The main character Jeremy takes one and then navigates his rising popularity through the high school ranks.
I really liked the musical! It was clearly intended for a younger, high-school aged audience but even so it was really enjoyable. I loved the music and the more futuristic yet simple stage. The characters were all great and the music was super fun as well. I really loved “I Love Play Rehearsal”, “A Guy That I’d Kinda Be Into”, “Do You Wanna Ride?”, and “Michael in the Bathroom”. The rest of the music was really great too, and as I’ve continued to listen to the cast recording I’ve found a lot more I enjoy. I also really enjoyed how the story unfolded as well as how the interactions between the characters evolved throughout the performance. Oh, something else about the music, it was extremely well written all around. I’ve been slowly making my way through the Be More Chill Talks at Google and there’s a part where the lyrics in “I Love Play Rehearsal” when Christine is talking about her excitement at the upcoming rehearsal. She’s singing that it’s starting and everyone expects her to sing that it’s starting “now” but instead she says “soon” and it’s just a whole different experience due to the unexpected lyric. The score as a whole really does a great job at taking expectations and upending them to sort of give you a reset and allow you to take in the story with a fresh outlook.
Since it was the final performance I could tell that emotions were high. There were many points where the audience gave standing ovations and the actors on stage were visibly moved. I remember after “Michael in the Bathroom”, “The Squip Enters”, and “The Smartphone Hour” specifically but there were quite a few of these moments through the performance. There were so many amazing moments and I did wish I had a stronger connection to the musical prior to them but it was also great to see it with no expectations of what would happen.
Before the production started I asked my sister which characters she though I would like the most and she said Christine and/or Michael. I did indeed enjoy those characters a ton as I related to them deeply but I also just loved the character Brooke since she was hilarious! They were all such real characters and even if they were a little over the top at times they were so fun.
The costumes were also really fun. Christine really seemed to dress like a child to symbolize her independent spirt while Chloe and Brooke dressed much “cooler” as they were more popular. I also loved the Squip’s costumes. According to my sister the Squip would normally have 3 outfits but in this version it seems they brought out some of the older costumes for the Squip and the more influential the Squip became to Jeremy the more elaborate the costumes were. Jeremy’s outfits change as the Squip’s influence grows as well and it’s a great way to visualize the journey he’s taking.
The journey the musical took to get to Broadway was also quite remarkable. The musical was first performed in New Jersey and wasn’t able to make it to Broadway six years before it eventually debuted at the Lyceum Theatre. During that time the cast album recording was released and people started finding it and sharing it online. With the new popularity of the musical they were able to finally move to Broadway. It was clear that everyone involved in the musical didn’t take it for granted and were grateful for the opportunity they were given.
At the end of the musical the writer, Joe Iconis, came onstage, gave a great speech about the journey the musical had been on, and then brought everyone out again with more guests to perform a bit more. It was really cool and a lot of fun to experience! At one point Joe shouted out all the five people that were in the theatre that had no idea what they were walking into so I felt special too. His speech covered the journey of the musical including what it felt to see it succeed and make it to Broadway. After the show we hung out a bit around stage door which was crazy. We did eventually leave and head back to the hotel of course but it was cool to see how passionate everyone was about the show.
I wish it was still running so I could recommend you check it out! I would recommend at least listening to the cast recording and maybe looking up the NPR Tiny Desk Concert of Be More Chill if you don’t know the musical already. Otherwise, also check out the Talk at Google, recordings of the final curtain call, and even the (I can hardly believe I’m saying this but Joe Iconis said it was okay) secret recordings of the show on YouTube. It’s really a great show and I really enjoyed it a ton more than I thought I would!
So, let me know, are you going to check out anything from Be More Chill? Or which musicals could you see over and over again? Let me know!
Thanks for reading!
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Always love resding your theatre reviews, Pamela! I would love to see both of these musicals. It’s crazy I’ve never seen Phantom of the Opera yet!
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I hope you do get to see them both! Also, I’ve heard Phantom in Vegas is amazing since the theatre there was built specifically for this musical so hopefully you do get to see it!
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No way!! That’s so cool, I had no idea, how do you know everything?!? Lol. I sure hope it comes back around next season or something!
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Hahaha I actually found that out because a coworker said a family friend played Phantom there for many years! Otherwise I wouldn’t have known!
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