- "Michael in the Bathroom", a song by Michael after his only friend Jeremy ditches him once more, is the tearjerker of the show. This time, Jeremy abandons him at a huge party full of the most popular kids in school, and it's too much for the socially-anxious Michael to handle. It's a four-minute panic attack delivered in song form. George Salazar's screaming, anguished voice is enough to get the tears flowing on its own. However, many a fan (and cast/creator!) have referred to it as a moment everyone has had - hiding in the bathroom at a party where you're lonely and don't fit in. The realism and relatable nature of the song is what pushes it over the edge into one of the bigger tearjerkers in recent musical theatre history. Signature Song indeed.
Michael: And there's no denying, I'm just—
(Breaks down sobbing)
At a party...
is there a sadder sight than—?
- In the Exit 82 production, instead of cutting off after the "just" of the above line and then sobbing, Ryan Everett Wood's "just" dissolves into a sob itself. He can't even finish the line.
- Then there's this line:
Michael: I wish I'd offed myself instead! Wish I was never BORN!
- The lyric becomes even sadder when one remembers that Ned Vizzini, the author of the novel upon which the musical is based and Michael's creator, committed suicide at the age of 32. Vizzini never got to see this show, or how much it means to so many people, especially those struggling with depression just like he did. It's hard not to shed some tears when you realize this.
- The argument leading up to "Michael in the Bathroom" qualifies, too. Done right, Michael's bitterness at being ignored contrasting with Jeremy desperately happy to see him after escaping what could have very well been sexual or physical assault (thanks to the SQUIP's machinations) is jarring enough — in the 2018 production, for example, the normally physically affectionate Michael coldly pries Jeremy off of him when he attempts to hug him in relief, deeply hurt by his behaviour after turning on the optic nerve blocker. Then there's the growing sense of desperation on Michael's part trying to warn Jeremy of the Squip driving people to madness, culminating in Jeremy angrily denying there's a problem with his Squip and instead insinuating Michael is jealous, and when Michael refuses to relent in his concerns, Jeremy finally rejects him directly. It's a heartrendingly far cry from how close the two were in Act One.
Jeremy: (viciously shoves Michael) Get out of my way, you loser.
- For those with a broken home or a depressed, neglectful, or otherwise unstable parent, Jeremy's home life hits pretty hard. His mother left, sending his father into a depressive spiral so deep he seldom leaves the house and can't even put his pants on. Kind of adds new subtextual dimension to Jeremy's poorer decisions throughout the show, especially in this line during Jeremy and Michael's argument:
Maybe I just got a lucky break, is that so hard to believe? With my history
? I figured the universe owed me one!
- Michael's gentle, awkward probing and Jeremy's surly, closed-off rebuffing of his best friend during "Two-Player Game" after being thoroughly mortified in front of his friend by his father's state and his mother's absence is painfully realistic in a mostly comedic sci-fi show.
Michael: (hushed) So, how's he doing..?
Jeremy: How does it look?
Michael: Have you heard from her since..?
Jeremy: (curtly) No. And who cares? Mom's moved on. Why can't he?
Michael: Hey, don't be like...
Jeremy, desperate: Look, I don't want that to be my future!
- The Squip's verbal abuse of Jeremy. In addition to hitting close to home for many an audience member who's either been in such a relationship or struggled with self-hatred, many productions have Jeremy in tears as the Squip emotionally breaks him down.
SQUIP: Now, repeat after me: Oh, everything about you is so terrible.
Jeremy: Everthing about me is so terrible...
SQUIP: Good. Oh, everything about you makes me wanna die.
Jeremy: (about to cry) Everything about me makes me wanna die...
SQUIP, approvingly: Now you've got it.
- Jeremy's fight with his father hits hard, as with just a little prompting from the SQUIP, he lets loose on all the resentment and pain his father's neglect has been causing him throughout the show. Some tears are shed for Mr. Heere, too who truly does mean well and want to look out for his son:
I'm worried about you! I know things haven't been easy...without your mother
. But I'm still your buddy...buddy. Please. Tell me what's going on.
Tell him the truth
Jeremy: I took a pill-sized computer and it's made everything better...
Mr. Heere: I'm trying to be serious —
Jeremy:' Well, try harder! You wanna act like my friend? You can't even act like a dad!
I'm supposed to believe you
care? Look in the mirror! Ever since Mom left, you sit around like you're waiting for her to come back! And even if she did, you know what she'd find? A loser
who's so afraid to have a life, he can't even put PANTS ON! ...no wonder she's gone.
- "Loser, Geek, Whatever". Added to the New York productions as an Act 1 finale solo, Jeremy sings this as he deliberates whether or not to obey the SQUIP's instructions to abandon Michael in order to become popular. The song provides a pretty painful overview of Jeremy's psyche, detailing his deep sense of worthlessness and how long he's struggled with it. His descriptions of how he feels he can never trust his own instincts and that every decision he makes is the wrong one is painfully real - equally real as the listing off of every harsh thing said to or about him that's he's internalized and believed to be true over the years. If his self-loathing doesn't get you, his struggle with leaving Michael behind might. He's truly reluctant and afraid of the consequences of hurting his lifelong best friend this way, and then goes through with it anyway because his self loathing is deep enough that he's now learning to do the exact opposite of what his instincts tell him, allowing the SQUIP's machinations to take root. Even at his worst, it's impossible to not feel for, or even relate to, the kid lashing out because he feels he deserves to not be miserable and self loathing.
Jeremy, breaking down in tears: Especially now since I clearly see
the problem has always been me!
- Will Roland's version of Jeremy delivers the "optic nerve blocking on" line with his voice already shaking with regret for doing this to Michael. After Michael slides out of view, blocked from Jeremy's vision, you can still hear Michael crying, all while Jeremy reaches out helplessly to where he was previously standing.
- When Jeremy tries to convince Christine to take the SQUIP, she reacts in horror, stating that she wants to figure things out for herself rather than have a pill do it for her, leading to this exchange:
Jeremy: Its not like that! Itll help you to be better
Christine, shocked and hurt: Whats wrong with me now?
- In the 2018-2019 productions, during "The Pitiful Children", Jeremy asks Jenna how she's feeling that day. She responds in surprise that that's the first time someone has asked her that. It just makes you want to give the girl a hug. Especially when she tells Jeremy she'd do anything to feel like she belngs.
- A lot of the lyrics in "The Pitiful Children" have a deeply sad undertone, especially when the Squip tells Jeremy that all his peers are secretly just as scared and sad as he is. Although the Squip is manipulating Jeremy, there are some indications throughout the show that it's right — and it's now offering an escape from all that insecurity and pain. Who wouldn't be tempted by that chance? It's a very harsh reminder of part of the reason why this show is so popular with teenagers and college students; it hits home.
You won't feel left out or unsure... not pitiful children anymore!
- This animatic of the song captures the melancholy feeling extremely well, mixed with pure terror. Especially the ending, where Jeremy climbs towards a beacon of light, representing a world where everyone can be happy and confident in themselves... and behind his back, the SQUIP shuts Michael out and abandons him in the dark.
- The finale, "Voices in my Head", definitely brings out the happy kind of crying. Free of the SQUIP, Jeremy mends his broken relationships with his father and Michael, gets together with Christine, and finds a new lease on life beyond his insecurity, trauma, and struggles with outside influences. To add to this, the entire cast seems to be friends now, the incident with the SQUIP bringing them all closer together, allowing them to support one another, truly be friends, and move towards accepting themselves as well. The messages about mental health, self-acceptance and trust, and above all, hope are incredibly emotional. The 2018 production ends the song with our hero alone onstage as the music fades out. Jeremy smiles slowly, after all his suffering having finally found the inner peace, strength, and clarity to face life, in all its ups and downs. He's going to be okay, and maybe we can be, too. Fade to Black.
Jeremy: 'Cause of the voices in my head, the loudest one is mine!''
- Brooke getting her heart broken when Jeremy ends up alone with Chloe at Jake's party and the SQUIP tries to force Jeremy to sleep with her for the sake of making him popular. Poor Brooke has been betrayed by her best friend and the guy she's been dating (from her point of view), and hearing her break down in tears is just devastating. Break the Cutie indeed.