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‘Be More Chill’ to End Broadway Run in August


‘Be More Chill’ to End Broadway Run in August

Social media got “Be More Chill” to Broadway. But it couldn’t keep it there.

The supercharged sci-fi musical, about a nerdy teenager who swallows a supercomputer pill that promises to make him popular, will close on Aug. 11.

The show’s Tony-nominated composer, Joe Iconis, announced the closing from the stage on Thursday night. At the time of its closing, the show will have played 30 preview and 177 regular performances.

The musical, adapted from a 2004 young adult novel by Ned Vizzini, features music and lyrics by Mr. Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz; it is directed by Stephen Brackett.

Simply arriving on Broadway was a triumph for the show, which failed to win over critics during an initial run in 2015 at the Two River Theater in New Jersey. But when music from the show was posted on the internet — particularly its breakout song, “Michael in the Bathroom,” sung by George Salazar — an online fan base sprouted up, with young people streaming the music and creating fan art in huge numbers.

Multiple schools and local theaters staged licensed productions — an unusual development made possible because the creators assumed the show would not have a commercial life. R&H Theatricals, a Concord Theatricals company, said 62 amateur productions have been performed in North America since 2017, and another 21 are scheduled.

The enthusiasm emboldened producers, led by Jerry Goehring (a college administrator who had seen the popularity up close when his own program presented a production of “Be More Chill”), to present a commercial Off Broadway run last summer at the Pershing Square Signature Center. That run sold out, and the fandom was intense enough to persuade the Shubert Organization to give the producers a theater for a Broadway run.

The show opened in March — a tough time of year for a musical with a largely student fan base — and several key reviews were negative. Tony nominators were also underwhelmed — Mr. Iconis scored the show’s only nod, and did not win. In a final indignity, the awards show host, James Corden, artfully parodied “Michael in the Bathroom” on the Tonys telecast, but did not mention the show in which it was featured; he later offered credit and praise for the song on social media.

“Be More Chill” got off to a promising start at the box office, grossing $738,384 during its first, seven-performance week, but was unable to sustain that. Last week it grossed $416,560 over eight performances.

The Broadway production was capitalized for $9 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission; that money has not been recouped.

But the show still gave a major boost to the career of Mr. Iconis, a long-heralded songwriter and cabaret scene favorite who has struggled to find his footing in the commercial arena.

Another musical he wrote, “Broadway Bounty Hunter,” will have a commercial Off Broadway run starting next month at the Greenwich House Theater. And there is new energy behind several others. His “Love in Hate Nation” is to have a production this fall at Two River Theater. And “The Untitled Unauthorized Hunter S. Thompson Musical” is expected to have a production at La Jolla Playhouse, which commissioned the work.

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