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Marques Walls is the backbeat to the chaos of Be More Chill, the new pop rock Broadway musical. The show is about a high school boy who takes a pill from Japan that makes him cooler, because obviously. The show had a brief New Jersey run in 2015, but 3 years and 200 million streams of the cast album later, this technicolor comedy has been revived by a dedicated fan base.

Marques sits (and stretches) backstage 8 shows a week to provide the pulse for those fans.

Joe Iconis’ pop rock score bounces from funk to rock to electro. How involved were you in revamping the drum book?

The styles are kind of all over the place in the best way possible. Charlie Rosen (orchestrator, Guitar 2) is a man of many talents genre wise.

I wasn’t there in 2015, but I was pretty involved even though the bones of the drum book were already solidified. To paraphrase a Charlie Rosen quote, he goes, “I love working with you because when you read my orchestrations you know what I meant to write.”

Do you get to mix it up each night?

Joe and Charlie are like “do whatever you want”, but every new thing I put in the book I run by them. I’m like “dial me back”, you know? But yeah, they’ve given me a lot of freedom throughout this process.

I see you enjoy hi-hat barking too.

Yeah *laughs ’cause I’m hilarious*. Some of that hi-hat stuff I got from my Dad. It’s kind of a running joke whenever he comes out to see me play. I always find a way to throw that in there if he’s in the audience.

  • These two monitors are used to see the stage and the conductor (who also plays Keys 1) during the show.
Do you worry about the click?

I’m not doing the click; that’s our MD Emily Marshall (Conductor, Keys 1). For about 75 percent of the show we’re on click. It’s in and out, and with Joe’s style of writing he likes the tempo and groups to kind of ebb and flow a little bit. So there’s no consistent click throughout any song.

That’s funny; with it being pop and rock music I would think it works best with a click.

We have a lot of what they call tempo maps. Things are ebbing and flowing but you can’t really tell from the house. It just sounds like one consistent tempo. And it’s kind of my job to make those transitions sound smoother than they probably are. So I will take a little credit for that because I am working hard to keep those transitions sounding smooth.

What I hate is when Ableton (the program running the click) messes up because I’m the loudest one on stage. It always seems like it’s my fault. I feel like we’ve had a few nights where it’s ruined my week.

With Be More Chill, the band is directly backstage in a line. Does it make a difference performing next to your band instead of in your own room?

We’re all breathing together and it affects it all positively. I interact with the actors backstage every now and then, which musically doesn’t do much, but it helps morale just to be in the same room laughing together.

Out of every single show I’ve done, this is the first one where I’m behind the curtain, which is cool. In Spring Awakening, I would get notes about scratching an itch onstage. They’d say, “You sneezed real hard during the tour in this one scene; could you hold that in next time?” which is really annoying but a small price to pay for being on a stage.

But I can get up and stretch, which helps my shoulder. I experienced a pinched nerve through my left shoulder and had to reteach myself a few things. I have to sit low and have my snare on the same plane as my leg so I can rest the injured arm as I’m hitting the snare.

As a drummer, how’s the lock-in with the bass player?

DENNIS! I love that dude. He has been my support system through this, because we all have bad shows and he’s always giving me the devil horns and is all “It’s fine! You sound good!”

Talk about the pressure of having to nail it 8 shows a week.

As a performer, we kind of thrive off that. Luckily, by the time the audience finally sees the show, we’ve already performed it for hours and hours and hours and hours of doing the same thing over and over again. So those catastrophic mistakes don’t really happen too often.

Does this look like the face of a man who feels pressure?

The audience can often dictate the energy of a show, but at the theater we expect them to be a bit more reserved as they take in the story. How do you gauge the energy?

This show is special because it has such a cult following. It would kind of make us hypocrites to not enjoy that energy. For most shows, you don’t really want too much whooping and hollering, but here we thrive off of it.

Except I will say St. Patrick’s Day was probably our rowdiest audience yet. Yeah, we had to vamp a little too much…

A high schooler takes a pill that makes him cooler…guess which one plays the pill.
Credit: 2019 Maria Baranova

Crack the track:

The whole album has excellent tracks to drum to. “Halloween” and “Smartphone Hour” are upbeat jams. My pick, however, is Two Player Game, specifically the cover by the 8-Bit Big Band (Charlie Rosen’s video game music project) where they funk it up a little bit. Don’t forget the hi-hat barking in the refrain, for Papa Walls!

Inspired by:

George “Spanky” McCurdy
Clayton Craddock (Drummer for Ain’t Too Proud)
Sean McDaniel (Drummer for Frozen)

The artillery:

Spawn Drums
Sabian & Zildjian Cymbals
Evans & Remo Heads
DW 5000 Pedal
LP Percussion
Roland SPD-SX
Vic Firth X5AN Sticks

Follow Marques:


Brian Cudina

Brian Cudina is a lyricist, writer, and drummer based in New York City. After studying sportscasting at college, he fell back into the music world to indulge in his love of drumming, musicals, songwriting, and STYX.


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