RED BANK: TRTC TAKES A ‘CHILL’ PILL

Joe Iconis and Will Connolly offered a taste of ‘Be More Chill’ at TEDx Navesink in April. The musical opens at the Two River Theater next week.

While tickets have just started going on sale for the next (2015-2016) season of mainstage entertainments from Two River Theater Company, the creative team under the artistic direction of John Dias has one more ace up its sleeve here in spring 2015 – the world premiere of an all new musical by the name of Be More Chill.

With previews beginning Saturday (and opening officially on June 5), the show represents the third consecutive world premiere in what’s truly been a TRTC season to remember. It also represents a play for a more youthful breed of theatergoer, based as it is upon a popular young-adult novel by the late wunderkind author Ned Vizzini – and packed as it is with a dynamic cast of twentysomething Broadway veterans.

Those fresh-faced talents pack a fairly formidable list of credits, too – ranging from Rock of Ages and Mamma Mia! to Green Day’s American Idiot, Once, and the most recent revival of Godspell. They’ll be working here in Red Bank with a fun score by the team of Joe Iconis (TV’s Smash) and Joe Tracz (whose adaptation of the Percy Jackson adventure The Lightning Thief premieres this summer), under the direction of Stephen Brackett (also of the Lightning Thief project).

As for the plot, well… it takes place in a strange land known as suburban New Jersey, where a teen named Jeremy Heere (Will Connolly) – an “average dork” just trying to keep his head down and survive high school life – is given the opportunity to transform himself from complete geek to Coolest Guy in Class. The vehicle for that metamorphic makeover is the Squip, a supercomputer in pill form that can implant all of the self-confidence and social skills that a guy like Jeremy lacks – particularly when it comes to interacting with his heretofore unobtainable dream-date Christine (Stephanie Hsu).

The Squip in all its persuasive glory is personified onstage by Eric William Morris, and the cast further features Jake Boyd, Gerard Canonico, and George Salazar, in addition to Paul Whitty as Jeremy’s well-meaning dad – a man who’s given up on his own dreams to the extent that he hasn’t bothered to put on pants in years.

Composer Iconis previewed the Dad character’s song about putting on pants, during TRTC’s season announcement event earlier this month. A five-piece band under the direction of Nathan Dame provides the live music for all performances – and you can take it here for a sneak listen to the song “Michael in the Bathroom,” as well as links to promo videos, interviews and performances by Iconis and members of the cast.

Check the Two River website for updated info on season subscriptions and individual tickets to shows in the 2015-2016 schedule. Then take it here for tickets ($20 – $65 adults) to Be More Chill, which continues its world premiere engagement with a mix of matinee and evening performances through June 21.