“It encourages and embodies the mission to be yourself,” reveals Stephanie Hsu of the new Broadway musical “Be More Chill.” Hsu plays Christine, a lovable theatre geek who finds herself caught up in a sci-fi plot reminiscent of “Little Shop of Horrors.” The actress discusses her character and the ways in which the musical resonates with young audiences (watch the exclusive video interview above).
Hsu has been with “Be More Chill” since its original production at Two River Theatre in 2015 and recently became a Lucille Lortel nominee for the Off-Broadway mounting. She’s used each iteration of the show to deepen her character but also feels empowered by the legions of teenage fans. Those fans hold Christine up as a strong female role model, so Hsu “leaned into that” by making Christine as bold and unique as possible. “They’re drawn to the weirdness of it all,” she notes.
Christine is arguably the biggest oddball of the bunch. She is perhaps the only student who doesn’t care what others think of her behavior. That’s evident in her boisterous behavior and larger than life physicality that the popular girls would frown on. Hsu drew on her background in experimental theatre and physical comedy to create Christine’s zany stage presence. She is also thankful that director Stephen Brackett created a rehearsal atmosphere that gave the actors “room to play.”
The improvisational nature of the creative process is most evident in Hsu’s signature song “I Love Play Rehearsal.” As Hsu bounds across the stage professing her love of high school theatre, she feels free to find new elements every time she begins the song. The sense of play from the rehearsal room carries over to the stage, and Hsu gets to “ride the wave” of the audience each night. If they demand something crazier, she’s ready to meet them there.
It’s a thrilling playground for someone who admits that “Broadway wasn’t on my radar for a long time. I didn’t know where my place in it would be.” But in “Be More Chill” she finds herself as part of a young ensemble where diversity is key. For Hsu, “diversity is not just about who gets the job” but in the audience members. “People come and feel seen, and therefore heard.” The number of Asian teenagers showing up to the Lyceum Theatre isn’t lost on the actress, and she’s glad that she is able to bring representation to a diverse Broadway season. As she puts it: “Theatre has such potential to make change, so it must be inclusive.”
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