EXCLUSIVE: A wild chase has ended with Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps and Greg Berlanti’s Berlanti Productions being chosen as the producers to shepherd a movie adaptation of Be More Chill, a Broadway-bound musical that became a viral sensation with young audiences even before its recent Off Broadway staging. Already, music from the high school-set sci-fi musical has generated an unprecedented amount of song streams.
Watch a couple samples from the Off Broadway production below.
I’m told that many producers chased this one over the past couple of days. Among the producers I’ve heard were Color Force’s Nina Jacobson, Imagine Entertainment, Michael De Luca, Marty Bowen’s Temple Hill, Scooter Braun, Jennifer Todd and Bob Zemeckis’ ImageMovers. Next step will be to enlist a studio. Both 21 Laps and Berlanti have their first look deals with Fox.
The musical has music and lyrics by Joe Iconis (NBC’s Smash), with book by Joe Tracz, and it revolves around a nerdy, bullied high school junior who tries to up his social status from the loser he feels like. His father, who is so depressed he won’t even put on pants, personifies the hopelessness. While he seems on a good enough track by following the girl he likes into joining the school play — a post-apocalyptic Midsummer Night’s Dream with zombies — Jeremy is persuaded by a bully to take a short cut to being cool. That comes in the form of a pill called a SQUIP, essentially a computer chip that embeds itself into the brain and tells kids exactly what to say and do to become popular. (In Jeremy’s case, his customized SQUIP guru, invisible to everyone else, looks and sounds just like Keanu Reeves).
While it overcomes Jeremy’s wimpier tendencies, the short cut to coolness raises issues of conformity, mind control and Mountain Dew. It is all based on a cult YA novel by Ned Vizzini.
Much of the deal still has to be worked out, including which studio acquires the rights. But there is time, considering that performances don’t begin until Wednesday Feb. 13, 2019, with an official opening on Sunday, March 10, at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, with Stephen Brackett directing. This follows an Off-Broadway run that was sold out before its first performance, fueled by the power of social media.
Movie adaptations of hit musicals don’t usually materialize until years after lucrative stage runs, but this one looks like it has a strong shot at succeeding. Levy and 21 Laps’ Dan Cohen will produce with Berlanti and Sarah Schechter. 21 Laps CE Becca Edelman will supervise production for the producer. Director of development Mike McGrath and director of production Jimmy Gibbons brought the project to Berlanti Productions and will supervise it.
The auction is being run by WME, which also is separately still brokering a long gestating auction for the rights to theatrically release a movie based on filmed performances of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, with the original cast. That one still has several big bidders in the mix including Apple, with the parties vying hard in a deal that will surpass $50 million when all is said and done.
Both Levy and Berlanti are repped by WME.
The musical started life in 2015 as a commission from Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, which led to the recording of the cast album that became a big success on social media.
Here are a couple clips from the 2018 Off Broadway production: