BWW Album Review: BE MORE CHILL (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Does Not Always Compute
With a slightly different cast and some changes to the music, it is no surprise that Be More Chill's Broadway production was recorded for Ghostlight Records Be More Chill (Original Broadway Cast Recording). The album is full of energy and teeters on the verge of frenetic, masterfully capturing the best and worst aspects of the upgraded Broadway production.
Compared to Ghostlight Records' Be More Chill (Original Cast Recording), aside from the change in packaging, listeners will first notice the expanded orchestrations for the Broadway band. Joe Iconis' music is more fleshed out, which adds a layer of polish to this recording. This is especially true in tracks like "Sync Up," which features electronics, a horn section, and sound effects. It's also seen in the addition of sound effects on numbers like "Two Player Game." While it's wonderful hearing the score expanded in this way, I also find myself missing the smaller-scale, more independent soundscape of the original recording.
The hit songs from the original recording are still standouts on this album. Will Roland's take on Jeremy Here differs from Will Connolly's portrayal, but he still makes "More Than Survive," "Loser Geek Whatever" (a song Connolly didn't perform on a recording), and "Voices in My Head" infectious toe tappers that are super fun to listen to. George Salazar and Roland's iteration of "Two Player Game" is energetic, bright, and a delight. Likewise, Tiffany Mann's powerhouse vocals for the ebulliently gossipy Jenna Roland on "The Smartphone House (Rich Set a Fire)" is a joy on the album. Jason Tam's incredible Keanu Reeves impersonation and ability to be friendly and sinister at the same time makes his Squip irresistibly attractive on tracks like "Be More Chill, Pt. 1," "Be More Chill, Pt.2," and "The Pitiful Children." Additionally, Salazar's "Michael in the Bathroom" and every moment Lauren Marcus sings on the album achieve musical theatre sublimity and should be welcomed into the showtune canon with arms wide open.
For listeners who enjoy seeing how musicals grow and evolve, Be More Chill (Original Broadway Cast Recording) has plenty to offer. Songs have been altered, re-orchestrated, added, re-ordered, etc., and this recording reflects all of that. However, I'm not thrilled by the addition of "Sync Up" or the rewriting of "Upgrade," even if I do find "Loser Geek Whatever" to be a better first act finale than the original "Upgrade." Additionally, there are the character choices made by Stephanie Hsu in playing Christine as a wacky theater nerd with boundless affable energy that ultimately makes her annoying and leaves listeners wondering how Jeremy ever viewed this girl as out of his league. Hsu's take on "I Love Play Rehearsal" is my least favorite moment on the album; yet, her enjoyable take on "A Guy That I'd Be Kinda Be Into" is freed from every single one of the aforementioned issues.
Like the show itself, Be More Chill (Original Broadway Cast Recording) has its moments of brilliance and moments of incongruity. Despite the low spots on the record, as a whole, it is fun and entertaining. The music and lyrics are well written and satisfying. But, if you already own Be More Chill (Original Cast Recording) you may struggle for reasons to commit to owning this version as well.