Why You Need to Be Listening to the Musical Dear Evan Hansen

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Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical that is taking Broadway by storm. Celebrities from Beyoncé to Harry Styles to Meryl Streep have seen the show.  The musical stars Ben Platt, who most people know from his breakout role as Benji in the movie Pitch Perfect.

Dear Evan Hansen first appeared in Washington D.C. at Arena Stage, then off-Broadway at Second Stage, and then finally opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December of 2016. The musical had so many tryouts because of its unique development. Unlike most musicals, Dear Evan Hansen is not based on a book or movie, but solely on an experience from its writers and composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They started with the idea: why do people attach themselves to tragedies that might not belong to them in order to feel apart of something. This idea then adopted the idea of what it is like to be a high school student that has trouble connecting to other people while living in a world that is so interconnected through social media.

Platt plays the title character Evan Hansen who is a very anxious senior in high school. He has troubling connecting to people, which is amplified by the hyper connectivity of social media. His therapist has him write self-affirming letters to himself in order to cope with his anxiety. He starts off the letters with “Dear Evan Hansen” and finishes them with “sincerely me.” One of these letters ends up in hands of Connor Murphy, a loner student in his school. Three days later Connor commits suicide, and his parents find the letter with him thinking it is his suicide note.

Evan gets caught in this lie that he was friends with Connor, but while doing so he helps Connor’s parents, Cynthia and Larry, and sister, Zoe who Evan has had a long time crush on, heal. The family in turn starts to make Evan feel accepted and what he has to say really matters to them. He finally has a feeling of acceptance but it is predicated on a lie.

This musical has the unique ability to take such an unambiguous character like Evan Hansen and allow almost everyone to find a piece of themselves in his character. The story starts with the audience believing that Evan is the only character in the story who feels like they are not able to connect in some type of way. However, as the story progresses and each of the other seven character’s layers unfold it is revealed that everyone in the story feels a varying about of loneliness.

The genius of this is that it parallels real life. Evan believes that he is the only one who suffers from an inability to connect with other people or to feel like he is apart of something, but he starts to find out that everyone feels that at some point in his or her life. When you leave the show or even just finish listening the music on your phone you start to feel like (to quote the show) “you are not alone.”

Evan is someone who is desperate to be apart of something, but is terrified of people seeing and knowing him for who he really is. It also furthers the conversation about anxiety. So many people have anxiety in differing forms, and when this can be talked about in such an open setting it starts to end the stigma around it.

The story line is genius and so is the music. The Tony winning cast recording is orchestrated and sung beautifully by the entire ridiculously talented cast.

Ben Platt won the Tony for best actor rightfully so. He gives one of the most ethereal performances on Broadway. The amount of vulnerability and emotion he is able to portray on stage is remarkable.

If you have the resources and are able to see Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway or at a theatre near you as it is going on tour in 2018, run don’t walk to see it. But if you cannot get to New York City to see it, the original Broadway cast recording is available on all streaming devices, and it is more than worth the listen. Ben Platt plays his final performance as Evan Hansen November 19

 

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