See Broadway’s “Be More Chill,” Minneapolis Style

”Be More Chill” at Illusion is a good reminder to check out the lineups of our theater venues
Within the Cowles Center is Illusion Theater

Courtesy the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts

Be More Chill, a musical which opened on Broadway in February, is already making its Minnesota premiere tonight, April 5, at Illusion Theater in a production by the Minneapolis Musical Theatre. Unlike the Final Four activities, it is here through April 28, so you have plenty of time to get tickets.

To back up, here are some quick things to know about the musical if you’ve never heard of it:

1) The musical is based on the young adult book Chill by Ned Vizzini (you might have heard of some of his other works, like the book-turned-movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story). Start with all of the best stereotypes high school movies thrive on, add average little Jeremy trying to climb up the social ladder, and then zest the crap out of the plot with a supercomputer that uploads to your brain and teaches you how to be popular. You heard me right.

2) The musical made its premiere in New Jersey in 2015, faded out of mainstream view except for a cult following, and made it to Broadway due to demand. The fact that it’s here in Minnesota—not just because a production is on tour, but because a local company got the rights—is slightly usual.

3) Take my hype with a grain of salt. Even though the fans of “Be More Chill” are often big fans, the musical has been hit-or-miss to reviewers. But if you want something fun, indulgent, and well … reminiscent of the comedy-tragedy that is adolescence, this might be it. For me the best song is “Michael in the Bathroom.”

Whether or not you choose to see it, I’ll just take this opportunity to highlight a few venues that host a variety of companies so you don’t miss other gems. Keep in mind that this is just a few of the many, and I haven’t touched on the companies themselves, like Theater Coup d’Etat, which flit from venue to venue.

Illusion Theater

Located in the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, Illusion Theater’s lineups can include plays by theater companies like physical theater company Transatlantic Love Affair, but it also presents plays, like this season’s Willa Cather’s ‘My Antonia.’ or last season’s Dancing with Giants, which starred Tovah Feldshuh of The Walking Dead. Catch Be More Chill here through the end of the month.

Bryant-Lake Bowl

Although Bryant-Lake Bowl’s ownership changed hands from Kim Bartmann to longtime employee Erica Gilbert in October 2018, it hasn’t skipped a beat. Literally today and tomorrow, you can catch the drinking game/comedy 2 Fast 2 Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet, but two other theater-related bits for the month are The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Stories (April 14) by the Icebox Radio Theater and Velvet Swing (April 5-27) by Umbrella Collective, which tells the true story of Evelyn Nesbit, who was both a 19th century supermodel and part of the crime of the century.

Crane Theater

Nimbus Theatre company operates the Crane Theater, and while their show The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy, the Worst Robber in the West is playing in May, its lineup includes a variety of other companies. The Drowning Girls by Freshwater Theatre (April 5-14) is about the three real life victims of George Joseph Smith. Lungs (April 18-20) asks what “the right reasons” are for having a kid in this crazy day and age. Market Garden is performing Another Revolution (May 17-26), where two graduate students with conflicting scientific disciplines share a research lab at Columbia University in 1968.

Gremlin Theater

Catch companies like Theatre Pro Rata, Theatre Unbound, longtime favorite Frank Theatre, and more here. Shows coming up are SOS Theater’s Pop Goes the Noggin (April 19-May 12), which is about the nurses at Loon Lake State Hospital in the 1970s; New Native Theatre’s The Rez Sisters (May 20-June 20); and Chameleon Theatre Circle’s production of Spring Awakening (June 7-30).

Southern Theater

With a lineup heavy on the dance, Southern Theater has a few theater productions lined up. Theatre Ellison is producing the U.S. premiere of the Sea Cabinet (May 30-June 9), which is a song cycle all about the sea connected by one woman walking along the beach, collecting all of the objects, trash or treasure, that have washed ashore. Looking way ahead into the mid and late summer, Birds Sing Differently Here (July 25-26), which ran at the Dowling Studio in 2017, tells the true stories of Iraqi-Minnesotan refugees and immigrants.

For a little extra note, if you want something different, check out Open Eye Figure Theatre’s world premiere of The Beledenville Troll: A New England Gothic (through April 14). For those who saw “The Red Shoes” last year, also by Joel Sass, this isn’t a sequel, but it has the same dark curiosities, fairytale themes, and puppetry.

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