Be More Chill is a musical theatre adaptation written by Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz of the book with the same name. It premiered at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2015. It follows the life of Jeremy Heere, an average high school dork whose life gets turned upside down after he gets a Squip - a quantum supercomputer in the form of a pill that enters one's brain and instructs them on how to become cool.
Despite running for only a month in a small regional theater, it blew up in popularity on Tumblr in summer 2017 and has the makings of a modern Cult Classic. The fanbase is vocal enough to have secured it an Off-Broadway run starting in July 2018, and then a Broadway run from February to August of 2019. If you're a theater kid between the ages of 14-25, you know this show, or at least the Signature Song "Michael in the Bathroom".
Be More Chill contains examples of:
- Adaptational Heroism: Michael. Where in the book, he's still an outsider and Jeremy's best friend, he never runs up on stage during the play to save the school from being turned into mind-controlled zombies. The character is also less sympathetic in general in the book considering he's a white boy with Yellow Fever.
- Adaptation Name Change: Christine's last name goes from Caniglia in the book to Canigula in the play.
- Adaptational Sexuality: Michael. Whereas in the book he is straight and his girlfriend Nicole is a minor character, in the play it's ambiguous as to what his preferences are and he remains single throughout.
- Adaptational Villainy: While Jeremy's Squip could certainly be cruel in the book, the musical version is outright abusive towards Jeremy, degrading his self-esteem with mantras like "Everything about you is just terrible/Everything about you makes me wanna die" so that Jeremy will be compelled to do what it says. Jeremy's Squip isn't even an antagonist in the book. Sure, it can definitely be snarky and it and mistakenly humiliates Jeremy in front of a crowd full of onlookers, but it never sets out to brainwash all of humanity and even tells Jeremy how to deactivate it once it realizes it will be no further help to him.
- Adorkable: Jeremy, Michael, and Christine all have their moments. Surprisingly, so does Rich towards the end.
- Adults Are Useless: There are only three human adult characters in the whole show: The Stockboy (drug dealer), Mr. Reyes (drama teacher who doesn't care about his job at all), and Jeremy's dad (lazy man who is too consumed by his divorce to take care of Jeremy. He gets better by the end, though).
- A.I. Getting High: On Halloween, Jeremy learns that drinking alcohol messes up your Squip's functions, causing it to revert to its native Japanese, glitch out, and fall on its face drunk.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The SQUIP is supposed to help its user deal with social situations in a more appropriate fashion... and instead it emotionally and physically abuses the user. Within the show specifically, Rich's SQUIP represses his feelings for boys and leads to him burning down Jake's house, and Jeremy's SQUIP (possibly in league with Rich's SQUIP), tries to take over the entire school, and it details its plans to erase all human emotion from existence.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Subverted. Everyone assumes this is the case when Rich sets a fire at the Halloween party, but the story gets even juicer when they find out he was sober when he did it.
- Alcoholic Parent: Rich's dad.
- Alliterative Name: Christine Canigula and Michael Mell.
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Based on the novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini.
- All Part of the Show: Amusingly subverted at the climax.Michael: I was just in the audience, thinking, "This is pretty good for a school play!" Then I was like... "This is way too good for a school play." They've all been Squipped, right?
- Alpha Bitch: Chloe.
- Ambiguous Disorder: About half the cast.
- Jeremy is extremely heavily implied to suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder, and displays many characteristics of depression, most notably his severe self-hatred, which the SQUIP exploits to gain control over him by encouraging his existing suicidal ideation.
- In general, Jeremy's arc revolves around his mental health, and much of the final song of the show - "Voices In My Head" - is based off of a quote from Ned Vizzini, the author of the original book, about his own experiences with depression.
- Michael has a full-blown panic attack at the Halloween party, in the process also showing symptoms of serious social anxiety and suicidal ideation. It's ambiguous how much of this is a new thing due to losing his only friend, and how much of it was there before but just well-hidden.
- While some of Rich's shaky sanity is the result of abuse by his SQUIP rather than a disorder, he does briefly mention that he first got his SQUIP partially because he was "stagnant" and "suicidal" - which his SQUIP clearly exploits. On Halloween, when he struggles to find a way to get rid of the SQUIP, he attempts suicide.
- Christine feels unable to relate to anyone her age outside of theatre, mirroring how some autistic people or people with ADHD can feel about people who do not share their interests. She also mentions frequently feeling depressed and immediately follows it up with a suspiciously flustered insistence that she doesn't self-harm, she seems to lack a filter when she speaks, and she has an odd Verbal Tic of being the only character in the musical whose songs don't always rhyme, which is probably a metaphor for something. The "ambiguous" part of the trope is downplayed with her, though, since she straight-up describes herself as having ADD.
- Since his divorce, Jeremy's dad never leaves the house or even bothers to get dressed until his concern for Jeremy forced him to. He seems to be suffering from pretty serious depression, but the show doesn't really go into it much.
- Jeremy is extremely heavily implied to suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder, and displays many characteristics of depression, most notably his severe self-hatred, which the SQUIP exploits to gain control over him by encouraging his existing suicidal ideation.
- Ambiguously Gay: Never confirmed, explicitly or otherwise, but it's hard to look at Michael and miss the optics. He spends most of the musical pining after Jeremy, and treats their strained relationship like a bad breakup, mourning not being half of a pair anymore. Jeremy calls Michael his "favorite person", and his betrayal of Michael at the end of the first act is the largest turning point in the musical, not to mention the fact that Michael is the only one who is able to save him from the Squip. This is a change from Vizzini's novel: there, Michael has a girlfriend named Nicole, who is a minor character.
- According to Word of God, in early drafts of the script, Michael talks a lot about girls, but doesn't talk about them at all in the final version. This interpretation of Michael's character is also explicitly supported by Joe Iconis and George Salazar.
- Several characters in the musical also assume/ask if Jeremy and Michael are a couple, to the point where Rich writes "BOYF" and "RIENDS" on their backpacks (so it spells "BOYFRIENDS" when they stand next to each other). Towards the end, Rich comments on this in a non-joking way, asking "is [Michael] your boyfriend, or something?" Jeremy never gives any sort of answer to the question (though some recent productions do have him shake his head no, but this is balanced out by Rich then asking if Michael is single).
- Anachronism Stew: Even if the musical is taken as not adhering the 2015-ish timeframe set by the book (which was written in 2004), the mix of stereotypical 80's slang and sentient nanotechnology is a noteworthy example.
- Admittedly, the former may just be an example of recycling slang with ironic intent, since that's not uncommon for teenagers to do. But even if this is the case, the trope still holds since technology like smartphones appears to be roughly as advanced and widespread as it is in our present day and can serve as a relative measuring stick.
- In the Broadway production, which is set in the present, many of the anachronistic terms are replaced with more modern slang.
- Arc Words: Be More Chill, obviously. To a lesser but still significant extent, "It's from Japan," "loser", and "voices in my head".
- Assimilation Plot: The SQUIP's ultimate goal is to essentially sync himself to every human brain and tell everyone how to act.
- Attempted Rape: Happens to Jeremy at the Halloween party when Chloe comes on to him and the SQUIP prevents him from saying no or moving away. They are interrupted by Jake before anything too serious can happen, but it's still very much sexual assault.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Chloe's acting in the play is pretty bad. Her becoming a good actor is the first sign to Jeremy that she has a Squip. Of course, Michael put it best.Michael: I was just sitting in the audience, thinking, "This is pretty good for a school play." But then I was like, this is way too good for a school play!
- Bare Your Midriff: In the Broadway performance, all of Chloe's costumes expose her belly.
- Beta Bitch: When talking about Chloe and Brooke, the SQUIP literally refers to the latter as "the beta" - and Jeremy knows who he's talking about.
- Big Bad: The Squip, who ultimately wants to use Jeremy to infect the school... and then the world.
- Big Damn Heroes: Michael. It's not unusual for the audience to cheer when he does, too.
- Bi the Way: Rich has this revelation at the end of the show, as well as the fact that he might have a crush on Michael.
- Blue and Orange Morality: What the SQUIP operates on. As a supercomputer incapable of feeling emotions or possessing a conscience, rather than reasoning right from wrong, the SQUIP's sole reasoning is based on which actions produce favourable or unfavourable results based on the user's (and as it evolves and grows more powerful, its own) goals, completely disregarding moral questions such as consent, free will, and the emotional (and later, physical) wellbeingof others in the process.
- Break the Cutie: This show is a bonafide candidate for Break the Cutie: The Musical. Barely anyone is spared, Jake's Halloween party being the catalyst for (most) of the conflict endured by the characters.
- Jeremy, someone who suffered a lot prior to the start of the show, is emotionally and physically abused by the Squip from the get-go. On Halloween, he is sexually assaulted by Chloe via the Squip taking away his ability to resist, only narrowly avoiding rape because he's chased out of the room by a livid Jake vowing to beat him up for having sex with Chloe on his parents' bed. Then, he gets into a bad fight with Michael. While the show doesn't go into the psychological damage caused by this, there were undoubtedly some aftereffects. Things only get darker for Jeremy until the very end, as the Squip situation slides out of control.
- Michael, already hurting from Jeremy's behaviour, is destroyed when Jeremy ostracizes, insults, and abandons him, culminating in when he has a severe panic attack at a house party, during which he states that he wants to die and revealing to the audience he has his own inner demons. He's later seen getting extremely high and burning prized mementos he shared with Jeremy to cope with what happened.
- Brooke, who has mentioned previously being cheated on by ex-boyfriends, walks in on Jeremy (her boyfriend) and Chloe (her best friend) making out during Jake's party and spends the rest of it crying.
- Jake's parents abandoned him and don't seem to be coming back anytime soon, not to mention his house got set on fire and burned to the ground by Rich, who we can assume is at least a good friend of his. He breaks both his legs jumping out of a second-floor window trying to rescue Rich. And then he gets Squipped during the play and is forced to walk, run, and dance on his broken legs without the help of his crutches, actions that some productions show to land him in a wheelchair by the end.
- Christine breaks up with Jake halfway through the party, is ditched by him when he goes to have make-up sex with Chloe, and has a minor identity crisis, unsure of who she is or if she's ready for a relationship. In the 2018 production, she has secondhand trauma from the Halloween party, giving Jeremy a tearful, angry speech about how heartbroken and horrified she is by Rich almost dying and the fallout of him burning down Jake's house, how guilty and miserable she feels over laughing at Rich's behaviour and how she's at a loss as to how help her many, many suffering classmates.
- Rich has a very rough home life with an alcoholic father and is mentioned to have been suicidal in freshman year, where he was such a loser even Jeremy and Michael didn't notice him. His Squip only made his life worse, likely treating him just as badly as Jeremy's Squip, hiding his lisp, true personality, and bisexuality, shocking him repeatedly and ultimately driving him to burn down his friend's house in an effort to stop it, leaving him hospitalized and severely burned. Brought Up to Eleven in the 2018 production, where a new scene shows him being brutally tortured by his Squip, as he sobs in terror and struggles hard to rebel against its commands, leading him to set the fire in a quasi-suicidal attempt to stop it from taking over the school.
- Jenna Rolan admits during "The Pitiful Children" that she feels like no one cares about her business, even though she makes it her duty to know everyone else's. In the new production, she reveals that nobody has ever even asked her how she's doing.
- Mr. Heere has been undergoing a very blatant emotional breakdown ever since his wife left, and it takes Jeremy yelling at him to get him to even make a start at pulling himself together.
- Book-Ends: The words "C-c-c-c'mon, c-c-c-c'mon, go go!", as well as the "naaaa-na-nana" motif, are used in both the first and last song.
- Chloe's first words to Jenna harsh, cutting her off. At the end of the play, she has Jenna get the first word in.
- During More Than Survive (or the end part of Sync Up), Jeremy describes his first squipped day as "a not-too-heinous day". Then, Michael In the Bathroom has Michael describe the party as a "heinous night".
- In the Broadway production, Christine describes to Jeremy an idea for a performance art at the bowling alley, but couldn't find anyone to go with her. During Voices in my Head, he invites Christine to do some performance art at the bowling alley instead of a lunch date.
- Chekhov's Hobby: Micheal's "old school" interests turn out to include him being someone to keep Mountain Dew Red on hand.
- Chekhov's Skill: Jeremy and Michael playing retro video games together comes in handy later.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Happens to Rich twice, both times at the hands of his Squip. It first happens in the bathrooms at school, brutally shocking him for a prolonged period to prompt him to advertise Squips to Jeremy and hence kick off the plot. The second time was added in the 2018 production in a harrowing scene at the end of the Halloween party. Rich's Squip tortures him until he is writhing and sobbing as he attempts to resist its machinations, culminating in him setting fire to Jake's house to stop it. Much of what Jeremy's Squip does to him also qualifies, especially during the play.
- Costume Evolution: In the 2018 production, the Squip has three costumes in total: a stylish hoodie with sunglasses for his first form, a Badass Longcoat with white hair for his second form, and finally, an evil-looking robe with a Horned Hairdo for his third, most sinister form.
- Damned by Faint Praise: Brooke goes to the Halloween party dressed as a sexy dog, the Squip tells Jeremy to give her a "vague compliment".Jeremy: It's... original.
- Dark Reprise: Nearly every song gets one.
- The original wasn't the happiest number itself (if very upbeat), but "More than Survive (Reprise 1)", is downright heartbreaking in its depiction of Jeremy's crippling anxiety and low self-esteem following another botched attempt to talk to Christine.
- "Do You Wanna Hang?" reprises the melody of "Do You Wanna Ride?". The latter is a fun, sultry number where Brooke and Chloe flirt with Jeremy and invite him for a drive to Pinkberry. The former is sung as Jeremy is sexually assaulted on Halloween.
- Rich sings the chorus of "Halloween", a fun dance number, in an incredibly creepy way as he's tortured by Squip as he tries to fight back against being made to carry out its plans, his efforts culminating in him setting fire to Jake's house to try and save everyone.
- During the tail end of "The Pitiful Children", the "everything about you" melody from "Be More Chill (Part 2)" is reprised. While the original was hardly a lighthearted song, it goes from being a tune about the Squip promising to make Jeremy into the kind of person he wants to be to a sinister oath to Take Over the World with Squips and eradicate emotion or human error by brainwashing everyone.
- "The Play" reprises just about every other song in the show. As the final showdown where Michael and Jeremy have to to fight off a Squip-possessed student body while also fighting to free Jeremy, all the songs are in a much darker context than their original iterations. Scarier instrumental versions of "Be More Chill (Part 1)", the verse melody of "Two-Player Game", and "I Love Play Rehearsal" are present when the SQUIP begins taking over the cast, Jeremy is forced to fight Michael, and Christine is Squipped, respectively. The according leads also sing reprises of "Upgrade", "Do You Wanna Ride", "Two-Player Game", "The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set A Fire)", and an especially haunting version of "A Guy That I'd Kinda Be Into".
- A Date with Rosie Palms: A running gag with Jeremy. Literally the first thing of him that the audience sees is him trying (and failing) to download porn for this purpose, dumping an inordinate amount of lotion on his hand, and then complaining that he's now going to be uncomfortable all day without it. The SQUIP calls him a "masturbator" as an insult when it first starts criticizing how he walks, and when Jeremy objects that he is a masturbator the SQUIP offhandedly promises that they'll work on that. Sure enough, the SQUIP is later seen interrupting Jeremy's next attempt to download porn by giving him an electric shock.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Jeremy both times when he sees Christine during More Than Survive. Also whenever he is remotely near her at all. It seems to be a running theme with him, as this is always his reaction to Brooke during Do You Wanna Ride, Upgrade, and Halloween, Chloe during Do You Wanna Ride, and perhaps most disturbingly, by the Squip during Upgrade.
- Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi:
- While it thankfully doesn't go that far, it's quite clearly sexual assault. At the Halloween party, the Squip forces Jeremy into a sexual situation with Chloe, using its control over his body to stop him from escaping and to puppet him so that he reciprocates her advances. Jeremy explicitly states that he doesn't want to have sex with Chloe and is very uncomfortable kissing her, telling the Squip multiple times that he wants to stop and eventually pleading with it for help while it looks on in cruel amusement. It is never brought up or even referenced again, but Jeremy is noticeably upset by it, running from the room in a shaky panic as soon as the Squip shuts down, although that could be just as much from Jake threatening him.
- Towards the end, Christine confesses her love for Jeremy... while under the influence of the Squip. The Squip says it's really her, just without her insecurities and fears, but it's very suspect. The Squip even says Christine will do anything Jeremy wants or asks of her in this state. Fortunately, Jeremy has his head on right and realizes Christine doesn't really have control over what she's saying or doing, and he's far too good a guy to take advantage. The implications are still pretty horrific, especially if you consider what may have happened if someone less noble was in Jeremy's shoes.
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: "The Pants Song", coming, surprisingly, from Mr. Heere as he resolves both his and Michael's arc, pushing past his depression to enlist his help in saving Jeremy.
- "The Pitiful Children" qualifies as a villainous one, a huge and menacing ensemble piece led by the Squip as it truly unfurls its plan. During the number, Jeremy is brought the deepest yet into the villain's clutches, as is Jenna Rolan, while the Squip gloats over its impending victory, all of which sets up some serious threats for the climax. Depending on the production, this either comes right before or right after "The Pants Song", but both songs qualify as big turning-point numbers building up to the finale, and hence can both fall under this trope.
- The End... Or Is It?: The ending implies the Squip isn't quite gone. "You can't get rid of me that easily!" However, it's also implied that Jeremy will be able to handle it from now on.
- Fake Texting: Pretending to check a text is mentioned during the song "Michael in the Bathroom".Michael: I'd rather fake pee/ Than stand awkwardly/ Or pretend to check a text on my phone"
- Fan Disservice: Chloe dressed as a sexy baby. The sentence speaks for itself, really. The Halloween party Attempted Rape makes it worse.
- Fangirl: A male example could be Michael as a fanboy to Jeremy. Whether you read this as romantic or platonic, he's incredibly devoted to him, all but bursting with joy whenever something appears to go right for him.
- Christine is a theatre fangirl; she constantly makes theatre references and her introductory song, "I Love Play Rehearsal", is an extended Squee! session about theatre while also exploring her character.
- The Final Temptation: In a last-ditch attempt to regain favour with him and hence accomplish its plan, the SQUIP tries to dissuade Jeremy from drinking the Mountain Dew Red by offering him a possessed Christine who will do "whatever he wants, as I promised", forcing Christine to tell Jeremy she loves him. It initially seems to work, until Jeremy has her drink the Mountain Dew Red instead.
- Foreshadowing: In the Broadway version, the SQUIP fixes Jeremy's vision so he doesn't have to wear glasses, explaining he has access to Jeremy's optic nerves. We also see Michael suddenly disappear from the background during "Sync Up." This builds up to the revelation that SQUIP has been blocking Michael from Jeremy's vision.
- Friendship Song: Two-Player Game, although it has some extremely non-heterosexual implications.
- Full-Name Basis: Jenna Rolan.
- Fun with Acronyms: Squip stands for Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor.
- The Glasses Gotta Go: In the Broadway production, Jeremy wears glasses until the SQUIP forces him to stop wearing them and corrects his vision instead.
- Gut Punch: "Do You Wanna Hang?" While some of the characters' situations are quite sad from the get-go, the show is a fun, quirky teen comedy with sci-fi elements. The Squip is obviously up to no good from the start, but aside from a few shocks and some snark, the worst he does by the end of Act One is convince Jeremy to abandon Michael in order to become popular. One would think this would lead to a lesson being learned about loyalty and being yourself. Then, in Act Two, The Squip nearly forces Jeremy to have sex with Chloe to boost his reputation, ignoring his pleas for it to stop, a wake-up call to the audience that the story — and the Squip's actions — are about to get much, much darker.
- The entirety of the Halloween Party could be considered one; following his assault, Jeremy runs into Michael, who's come to warn him that he found out that another SQUIP user ended up in a mental hospital, having lost his mind trying to get it out. Even the music cue on this line plays up the growing darkness.
- Then, of course, there's "Michael In The Bathroom", where the formerly happy-go-lucky and warmhearted Michael, the typical 'goofy best friend' character in a high school story, suffers a severe panic attack and offhandly mentions killing himself.
- The most obvious Gut Punch of the show, however, is Rich setting fire to Jake's house at the end of the Halloween party; in case there was any shadow of a doubt how terrifying a threat the Squips are, Rich is tortured by his Squip until he's wailing for trying to resist its plans to create a school-wide — and possibly worldwide — Hive Mind, and, out of desperation, burns down Jake's house in an effort to stop them, nearly dying in the process and leaving Jake with critical injuries. Christine and Jeremy both Lampshade the horror of this event later on, with the latter beginning to truly fear his Squip.
- Has Two Mommies: Michael mentions his two moms in the revised 2018 off-Broadway script.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: Michael wears his headphones at school whenever hes not with Jeremy, and is known to the other students as "antisocial headphones kid".
- Heroic Sacrifice: A twofer; during Act 2, both Rich and Jeremy willingly put themselves in peril from which it looks like there's no return in an effort to stop their Squips. Rich does this by setting fire to Jake's house and nearly dying in the process to keep his Squip from forcing him to spread the network through the school, and Jeremy by giving Christine the last drops of the Mountain Dew Red instead of drinking it himself so that she doesn't have to suffer his fate because of his incessant pursuing of his crush on her, to the utter wrath of his own Squip. While thankfully, both boys recover, neither of them expected to walk away from their fates in the moment.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Most of the characters, something of a Joe Iconis staple. The Squips make it worse.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: If Jeremy and Michael's relationship isn't romantic, then it's definitely this trope. With the affectionately-delivered lines like "Dude, you are cooler than a vintage cassette/It's just that no one else but me thinks that yet" and "You know that you are my favorite person", not to mention the entire song about how they navigate life together and rely on one another, it's evident that they're very close.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Rich's Squip. It repressed his feelings for other boys, evidenced by both Word of God and the fact that he didn't realize he was bi until the Squip was shut down.
- "I Am Becoming" Song: "More Than Survive (Reprise)", as well as "The Pitiful Children".
- I Know Mortal Kombat: The reason Jeremy and Michael are able to evade the Squip zombies during the climax is because they played a video game that mirrors the situation almost exactly.
- Ironic Echo: Mr. Heere ends his talk with Jeremy during "Two Player Game" with "good talk". Later, after the house fire, Jeremy ends his The Reason You Suck speech with that exact phrase.
- "I Want" Song: "More Than Survive", as well as "Two-Player Game", to some degree. "Loser, Geek, Whatever," a new addition for the 2018-2019 productions, perhaps fits this trope best.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: All the popular kids, aside from Chloe (who's just an Alpha Bitch, though she seems to be getting better by the end, the script indicating that she should be "genuinely supportive" of Jenna), and Brooke (whos just plain nice). They all make fun of Jeremy and do a lot of stupid, petty things to amuse themselves, but none of them are really bad kids. The ending implies they'll still be friends with Jeremy, even without the Squip.
- Knight of Cerebus: The SQUIP. He may have his comedic traits, sex appeal and charisma, but make no mistake, the second he gets serious, he gets very serious.
- Light Is Not Good: The 2018 Off-Broadway production portrays the Squip as a Man in White. He progressively gains more black accents◊ as the show continues.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: In contrast to Chloe, Brooke and Jenna Rolan both come off as decently nice people with troubles and insecurities of their own — just shallow, a bit ditzy, and attention-seeking.
- Manipulative Bastard: The Squip, and how. Right from the start it begins chipping away at Jeremy's already bruised self-esteem with constant, often unnecessarily harsh critiques of his looks, personality, and mannerisms. Then it asserts that all these things can be fixed and Jeremy can become cool if he only listens to its advice. He reinforces all this by alternately offering and then withholding scraps of affection and support which Jeremy feels he's lacking, especially from adult role model figures, which the SQUIP explicitly resembles. When Jeremy starts to have doubts about ditching Michael for the popular kids, the Squip contends that he's a link to "Jeremy 1.0" and that if Jeremy ever wants to become popular he'll have to ditch losers like Michael. The manipulative part is somewhat expected since the Squip supposedly has a comprehensive, adaptable knowledge of human social conventions and the ability to predict the most likely outcome of anything that anyone could say or do, but it certainly plays up the bastard aspect of this throughout the musical. It also issues electric shocks whenever he disobeys it, and is capable of producing hallucinations that 'prove' its points (such as of a crowd at the mall that alternately berates and adores Jeremy). This reaches its head perhaps during "The Pitiful Children", when the SQUIP shows a deeply empathetic Jeremy how Jenna Rolan and Christine suffer similarly to him, and contrasts this with how happy Jenna becomes when they give her a SQUIP of her own; by promising that they're helping others not suffer the way he did, the SQUIP gets Jeremy to agree to help Take Over the World by creating a SQUIP hivemind in which every person has no choice but to be happy.
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: At least half of the songs in the show count as this: More Than Survive, Upgrade, Halloween, The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set a Fire), The Play, and Voices in My Head. The song added for Broadway, Sync Up, is also a big ensemble number involving all the cast members.
- Meaningful Echo: At the Halloween party, Christine tells Jeremy to "Just... say what's on your mind." She repeats this during Voices in my Head, just before Jeremy finally asks her out.
- Mythology Gag: During "Voices in My Head", Chloe described her understanding of the Squips as "everyone [doing] ecstasy". In the book, Chloe actually gave Jeremy some Ecstasy before taking him into the bedroom.
- In the Broadway version, Christine proposes a performance art piece to be performed at the bowling alley. In the book, Jeremy went to the bowling alley to buy a squip before being told to go to the Payless. note
- Only Friend: Micheal and Jeremy are initially this to each other. Michael is happy with this; Jeremy, on the other hand...
- Parental Abandonment: Jake's parents are on the run for money laundering, leaving him all alone in his house. He seems to be content with his lot, but there are numerous hints that he's more upset with this than he lets on, and is lonely. The Broadway production plays up his isolation a lot more, including Christine calling him out for using the "poor lonely rich boy" cliché on her.
- Jeremy's mother walked out on the family some time before the start of the show. This pushed his father into a severe depression to the point of being unable to get dressed or act like much of a parent at all to Jeremy, in effect a subtler kind of 'abandonment' without meaning to be. It's made clear that this has a far harsher impact on Jeremy than he's willing to admit, growing harshly defensive whenever someone tries to broach the topic.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The two parties in the book, the Halloween dance and a regular house party (held by someone who isn't Jake) are conflated into a Halloween party at Jake's place because two different party scenes would probably been too exhausting (for both the cast and the audience).
- Psycho Prototype: The Squip is, as explained in the book, a bootleg of a Japanese prototype that somehow wound its way to New Jersey. Needless to say, it is not without faults.
- Race Lift: Michael and Christine, who are both white in the book, are portrayed by George Salazar, who is mixed-race (Ecuadorian and Filipino), and Stephanie Hsu, who is Chinese. For the 2018 off-Broadway production and the 2019 Broadway transfer, Asian-American actor Jason Tam was cast as the SQUIP, and African-American actors Britton Smith and Tiffany Mann were cast as Jake and Jenna respectively, all roles that were previously played by white actors.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The SQUIP's entirely willing to force Jeremy to have sex with Chloe via mind and body control to make him cooler. He also later controls Christine, and convinces Jeremy that he can do whatever he wants with her. Jeremy refuses to go along with it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jeremy gives one to his dad right before "The Pants Song". It's what ultimately drives him to pick himself back up.Mr. Heere: If you're not going to take me seriously—
Jeremy: Why should I? 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! Even if she did come back, you know what she'd find? A loser who's so afraid to have a life, he can't even put PANTS ON!
- Redheads Are Uncool: In the Exit 82 production, Jeremy is played by redheaded actor Matt Dalton.
- Averted in the original 2015 production, however, when Jake is played by the redheaded Jake Boyd.
- Reprise Medley: The climax of the show, "The Play", consists of each character reprising a previous solo: "Michael in the Bathroom" for Michael, Jake's verse in "Upgrade", "Do You Wanna Ride?" for Brooke and Chloe, "Two-Player Game" for Jeremy and Michael, "The Smartphone Hour (Rich Set A Fire)" for Jenna (as of the 2018 version), and "A Guy That I'd Kinda Be Into" for Christine. Several songs also show up as instrumentals, such as "Be More Chill (Part 1)", "Two-Player Game", "The Squip Song", and "I Love Play Rehearsal".
- Running Away to Cry: Michael at the Halloween party, although it's more hiding than running away. After Jeremy rejects him, Michael has a massive panic attack in the bathroom and breaks down crying. He doesn't tell anyone what happened, and thinks of excuses to cover up the redness of his eyes.Michael: I'll wait as long as I need 'til my face is dry / or I'll just blame it on weed, or something in my eye!
- School Play: A Midsummer Nightmare About Zombies.
- Sexy Whatever Outfit: It ain't a teen Halloween party without 'em. Brooke goes as a sexy dog, because "you always see sexy cats, but no one ever goes as a sexy dog." Chloe goes dressed as a sexy baby (big hint: that's not milk in her bottle).
- For Broadway, Christine describes her costume as a "sexy princess". She feels uncomfortable with it and only wore it to impress her popular date, Jake, but makes a point that as a feminist, she's not shaming anyone who wants to dress as such.
- Ship Tease: In the 2018 off-Broadway production, Rich and Michael have a lot of subtext during the finale, with attraction being canonically confirmed on Rich's end.Rich: Is he single? I'm totally bi, now!
- The video game that Jeremy and Michael play is visually inspired by the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D.
- "The Smartphone Hour" is inspired by "The Telephone Hour" from Bye Bye Birdie.
- Jeremy has stickers on his laptop showcasing his interests; one of them is of The Black Suits, the titular band of another Joe Iconis musical.
- During "The Pitiful Children", the Squip tempts Jeremy by helping him envision a future of "shiny, happy people" as part of its Hive Mind. Rich also uses that phrase during the ending.
- The Something Song: "The Squip Song" and "The Pants Song".
- The Sociopath: The SQUIP is evil and completely lacks empathy for his hosts, degrading them, subjecting them to horrific abuse, and not caring about their actions and wishes, as demonstrated multiple times when he disregards their demands of him. Justified in that it is a supercomputer that merely appears to be human, and therefore does not have the ability to feel or possess a conscience.
- Spiritual Successor: Can be seen as one to Little Shop of Horrors. Many of the changes made from book to musical, particularly the vilification of the Squip, seem inspired by Little Shop, although it does have a significant difference in that Jeremy doesn't murder anyone. Official marketing for the 2019 Broadway production describes it as "Little Shop of Horrors meets Dear Evan Hansen"
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Used at the tail end of "A Guy That I'd Kinda Be Into".Christine: I know that it's strange, but it's totally true.
A guy that I'd kinda be into...
Jeremy: The guy that you'd kinda be into...
Both: The guy that you/I'd kinda be into...
Christine: Back to play rehearsal,
- The creators say this is an intentional Character Tic for Christine, who does this at the end of her other big solo number, "I Love Play Rehearsal".
My brain is like "bzz"
My heart is like "wow!"
Because we're here at play rehearsal
And it's starting...
- Take Over the World: The Squip's true intent, or at least the whole school.
- Telephone Song: "The Smart Phone Hour" features Jenna, Brooke, and Chloe spreading gossip about the party from the night before—namely Rich setting a fire at the house.
- Tongue-Tied: Jeremy becomes this very briefly at the climax, since the Squip has the ability to stop Jeremy's vocal chords from functioning. Jeremy is able to overcome it, eventually.
- Totally Radical: The teens in this show use phrases such as "super pimp", "mack daddy", "hella gnarly", "homeslice", etc., although it appears to be mostly ironic in nature.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Mr. Reyes really likes his Hot Pockets. Brooke has Pinkberry frozen yogurts, while Michael relies on sushi and slushies for a perfect lunch.
- Trauma Conga Line: Arguably the entire cast get put through one to varying degrees, with Jeremy, Rich and Jake as top contenders for the worst ones.
- Triumphant Reprise: "MICHAEL MAKES AN ENTRANCE!"
- "Voices in My Head" has a brief reprise of "A Guy That I'd Kinda Be Into" except this time, Christine and Jeremy get together, and finishes off with a celebratory, rather than longing, reprise of "More Than Survive" and the instrumental part of "The Squip Song", as Jeremy heals and comes to finally trust himself. The writer has pointed out that the tempo is slowed to more relaxed, less aggressive pace than in the opening number to show how far everyone's come from their adversarial positions to others and themselves at the beginning of the show.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Rich, for suggesting Jeremy get a Squip in the first place. He honestly thought he was helping Jeremy (or at the very least, was under instructions from his own Squip), and didn't realize how much damage would come of it.
- Villain Song: "The Pitiful Children" and "Be More Chill" (Parts 1 and 2). Both are sung by the Squip to Jeremy, the title songs establishing it as an abusive and manipulative presence, and "The Pitiful Children" detailing its plans to Squip the whole school, and eventually, the world.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Whilst not saccharine, the show is notably quirky and lighthearted. However, by the time the SQUIP unleashes his plan, he elevates the threat level considerably.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Jeremy abandons Michael at the end of the first act in favor of being popular. Much of what he does during Act 2 up the "The Play" also qualifies.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Some of the Squip's lyrics in "The Pitiful Children" present it as this, though whether the Squip means a word of it or if it's just manipulating Jeremy (or both) depends on the audience's interpretation.The Squip and Students: Everything about us is going to be wonderful!
Students: We love everything about Squips!
The Squip and Students: Everything about us is going to be so alive!
Students: We could never live without Squips!
The Squip: You won't feel left out or unsure...
The Squip and Students: Not pitiful children anymore!
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: The Squip at its most manipulative does this repeatedly during "The Pitiful Children" and "The Play", citing Jeremy's desires as the source of his villainous actions multiple times. While this is pretty blatant victim blaming consistent with the Squip's severe abuse of Jeremy, the nature of its programming adds a horrifying grain of truth to the assertions. In the Broadway Production, the Squip says this pretty much verbatim as it forces Jake to walk on his broken legs, puppeting him to subdue Jeremy and Michael.The Squip: (scolding) Oh, Jeremy... look what you're making me make him do!
- Wild Teen Party: Halloween. There are girls in revealing costumes, massive amounts of alcohol, jello shots, pot, sex, and by the end the house is set on fire.
- You Have to Have Jews: After he first swallows the Squip and nothing immediate happens, Jeremy mourns to Michael that he "blew [his] bar mitzvah money on a Wintergreen Tic-tac."
- Christine and/or Mr. Reyes (depending on the version) mention that Rich is recovering in Beth Israel; however, this may just be an allusion to the real Beth Israel medical centre in New Jersey, as it is a hospital created by the Jewish community of Newark.