Alum’s Musical ‘Be More Chill’ Opens Thursday at Festival Playhouse

A Broadway musical written by a Kalamazoo College alumnus who is influencing the entertainment industry will run Thursday, May 16–Sunday, May 19, at K’s Festival Playhouse.

Be More Chill, which features music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz ’04, will spotlight Max Wright ’26 as Jeremy Heere. Jeremy is an average teenager until he discovers the Squip, a supercomputer that promises to bring him everything he desires including a date with Christine Canigula, played by Brooklyn Moore ’24, along with an invitation to the party of the year and a chance to enjoy life in his suburban New Jersey high school.

The musical concludes the academic year for the Playhouse’s 60th season, which has been themed “Systems as Old as Time.” It also has featured plays such as Playhouse Creatures and The Dutchman, which explore the harmful systems that hold back the oppressed while highlighting the ways that joy, laughter and solidarity can exist and thrive despite those systems.

Caleb Allen ’25 is serving Be More Chill as its dramaturg by assisting Director Quincy Thomas, a K assistant professor of theatre arts, in teaching the actors about the play’s characters and settings. Allen said the musical references some pop culture from the 1980s—including retro drinks such as Ecto Cooler, games such as Pac-Man and actors such as Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci—but it has themes that are relatable for all audiences.

“It’s very much a play about finding yourself in high school,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of fun with it, but there’s also a deep, sad story that probably resonates with a lot of people. Even the characters who are portrayed as cool in the play definitely have their own issues and everyone deals with negative self-talk.”

Another K alumnus, Grinnell College Professor of Theatre and Design Justin Thomas ’01, will serve as a Be More Chill scenic designer.

Tracz is well known for being a writer and co-executive producer on the Disney+ series adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. He previously created the Netflix series Dash & Lily and served as its showrunner. He also worked on the Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events as a writer and producer, and next will work as a co-showrunner for Season 2 of the live action version of One Piece on Netflix. His other theatre credits include The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, for which he was a Drama Desk award nominee for outstanding book.

Tracz “feels almost like a mythological figure to me,” Allen said. “Just being from the same school is exciting. I definitely have friends from outside of K, who are surprised to know that he went here, and he’s worked on a lot since then. It’s inspiring to see he came from roots like this to go into what he’s doing now.”

Be More Chill is presented through an arrangement with Concord Theatricals. Shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse, 129 Thompson St. Tickets are available online or by calling the Festival Playhouse at 269.337.7333. K students, faculty and staff are admitted free with a College ID. Adult tickets are $25, seniors are $20 and children younger than 12 are $5. Thursday’s performance will include a sign language interpreter. Please note that the play contains language and situations that may be triggering, including adult themes and the use of haze, flashing images and strobe lights.

Be More Chill photo shows Max Wright as Jeremy Heere and Zachary Ufkes '24 as the mask-wearing supercomputer, the Squip.
Max Wright ’26 portrays Jeremy Heere and Zachary Ufkes ’24 is a supercomputer called the Squip in “Be More Chill,” running Thursday-Sunday at Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse. Photos by Andy Krieger of Inspired Media.
Be More Chill actors
Tickets to “Be More Chill” are available online or by calling the Festival Playhouse at 269.337.7333. Photos by by Andy Krieger of Inspired Media.