“Dear Evan Hansen:” It Left Me Speechless, and Here’s Why

 

Note: This article reviews Dear Evan Hansen with the cast of the first U.S. National Tour and contains some spoilers.

 

Have you ever watched something that brings all of your emotions to the surface? You cry, you laugh, you begin to analyze your life and the world around you? That’s exactly what Dear Evan Hansen did for me. I’d been waiting (literally) for forever to have my chance to see it, and when I finally did, I was left utterly speechless.

 

Image via Playbill.com

 

The story starts off by introducing Evan Hansen (played by Ben Levi Ross): a shy, awkward senior in high school, faced with severe social anxiety and crushing loneliness. He lives with his single mother, Heidi (Jessica Phillips), and regularly goes to a therapist who advises him to write letters to himself to outline the good that happens every day. Heidi then points out the cast on Evan’s arm and suggests that to make friends, he should have people sign it (we find out the reason for his cast is because he fell out of a tree over the summer).

As the musical unfolds, the audience is then introduced to Zoe Murphy, Evan’s crush (Maggie McKenna), her troubled brother Connor (Marrick Smith), who is an outcast and loner at their school, and their parents. Also, we meet Evan’s wisecracking “family friend” Jared Kleinman (Jared Goldsmith) and his busy-bee school acquaintance Alana Beck (Phoebe Koyabe).

Here is where the central conflict comes in: after no one bothers to sign his cast, and Connor lashes out at him, Evan writes a letter to himself. In it, he writes that he won’t have a good year after all, and he ponders whether or not anyone would remember him if he weren’t there. As he’s printing the letter, Connor comes in and offers to sign his cast. Additionally, he reads Evan’s letter, but gets angry after he mentions Zoe in it and thus, thinks Evan is making fun of him. Connor storms off, taking the letter with him.

Days go by, and no one sees Connor. However, one day, Evan is called to the principal’s office and is told that Connor committed suicide. In a state of anxiety and pressure from Connor’s parents confronting him about the letter (which they think is Connor’s suicide note), Evan lies and says that he and Connor were best friends, thus sparking the ongoing plot of the musical – Evan trying to prove his lie is true, ultimately getting set on keeping Connor’s memory alive in the process.

 

Image via Playbill.com

 

One of the reasons this musical was so special was because it took the time to discuss the stigma of suicide, which is a serious topic for all people around the world today. Connor’s death is obviously central to the plot, but the way that Evan deals with it helps it evolve from something all the high schoolers will inevitably forget, to Evan’s courage to make Connor’s memory something that cannot be forgotten. I specifically loved the song “Disappear,” which relates to this. The main chorus is, “no one deserves to be forgotten, no one deserves to fade away,” which as someone who has felt the effects of a suicide, could not be more pertinent.

To be honest, I can’t really concretely describe how I felt after the lights dimmed, but I definitely was moved and brought to tears. One of the biggest reasons was because of the topic I identified with the most – the theme of hidden loneliness in the midst of a crowded room. Evan’s struggle (and to an extent, Connor’s) is marked by the shattering loneliness he feels even when he has people around him. Yet, as he finds out, even Jared, who has “a bunch” of friends, and Alana, who has all of the accolades and recognition, are lonely as well. Being someone who has gone through extreme periods of loneliness in her life, especially in high school, I could almost feel Evan speaking directly to me, as if I was watching my own similar story. Even college, a place where you’re supposed to be at your most social, can be a struggle when you don’t feel worth something or you don’t feel like people see you. I guess I realized that even if you’re keeping a façade of happiness on the outside, it doesn’t always mean that you’re happy on the inside.

I truly believe that we can all relate to Evan Hansen in some way. Besides loneliness and suicide, the play touched on other factors like single parenthood, financial difficulties, identity and connection, mental health and what it means to be a friend. All of those things shape Evan’s journey throughout the show and influences how he sees the world. When I saw the musical for the first time, I realized that all of those things have shaped my life as well, especially the idea that being myself will always be good enough.

I’m not saying that everyone who goes to see this will cry and want to write an article about their experience like me. However, I do feel that everyone who goes to see it will be moved in their own ways. After seeing it, I honestly didn’t know what to say, and that’s ok. I just know that it was powerful, meaningful, and all around amazing.

With songs like “Waving Through a Window,” “For Forever,” “You Will Be Found,” and “Words Fail,” Dear Evan Hansen sets the stage for a musical with tons of heart and the message that you (my lovely reader) will be found.

So, with that, I say –

Sincerely,

Me