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Into the Music Box

Posted 12/07/2017 by Lucy Peterson

photo by Andrew Villescas, signed playbill provided by Lucy Peterson.

A new tragically relatable musical takes Broadway, and the world, by storm.

Oscar Award-Winning composers and singer-songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the score to accompany a storyline that aligns with modern-day struggles of mental disorders and the power of social media. Dear Evan Hansen grabs audiences of all ages, but most notably adolescents, due to its story of an outcast teen who commits suicide, and a similarly anxious and depressed title character who gets caught up in a lie that changes his life.

As saddening and disheartening as it sounds, Pasek and Paul create both a painfully relatable and hilariously embarrassing story of a boy named Connor Murphy (played by Mike Faist) who commits suicide, and a boy named Evan Hansen (played by Ben Platt). Evan is seemingly mistaken by Connor’s parents as Connor’s secret best friend after finding a letter Evan wrote to himself as a coping method for his anxiety. Evan goes along with Connor’s parents’ belief so as to allow them solace and closure after their closed-off son’s death, and teams up with his friend Jared (played by Will Roland) to write fake emails that were allegedly shared between Connor and Evan leading up to his suicide.

Evan continuously builds upon his elaborate lie, spending more and more time at the Murphy’s with Connor’s sister Zoe (played by Laura Dreyfuss) who he has had a crush on since he laid eyes on her. Consequently, Evan spends less and less time at home and with his mother Heidi (played by Rachel Bay Jones) who is almost never home as she is trying to make ends meet after Evan’s father left. Therefore, she is left out of the loop and does not know of Evan’s big lie. Evan and Jared, accompanied by their friend Alana (played by Kristolyn Lloyd) decide to start what they call The Connor Project to keep Connor’s memory alive and show people that “no one deserves to disappear,” lyrics that come from the song of the same name.

The second act begins with Evan spending more time with his new girlfriend Zoe and spending less time focusing on his faux best friend Connor. Though he thinks he finally has all he’s ever wanted – the perfect girl, the perfect family (the Murphys are depicted as a wealthy family in contrast to the Hansens’ absentee father), and a lack of anxiety and depression – he drifts away from his friends and the project, leaving them frustrated. His mother finally finds out that he has been spending all of his time at another family’s home living a fake life. Reaching the climax of the show, Heidi, Alana, and Jared sing the resentful “Good For You,” and Evan reveals to the Murphys, in the song “Words Fail” that he was never in fact Connor’s friend and that letter that they found was written by Evan himself as a suggestion from his therapist to help his current state. Evan returns home where his mother sings the heart-wrenching “So Big/So Small,” bringing the whole crowd to tears, about the day his father left them and the toll she knew it would take on her role as Evan’s mother. The show ends on a happy note as Evan visits Zoe a year later and achieves closure with her, as well as closure with the anxiety and depression that consumed him throughout high school.

Dear Evan Hansen is unique in the fact that it reaches a wide range of audiences. Teens who are not Broadway-obsessed find themselves Dear Evan Hansen-obsessed because of its modern music, which won the Tony Award for “Best Original Score” and because of the real-world issue of depression and suicide among adolescents that is so often ignored. Many people feel like they can relate to Evan because he is perfectly imperfect, as humans are, and because he makes a mistake, which is simply human nature. Adults are also finding Dear Evan Hansen to be a relatable show, depicting the struggles of parenting, either as single parents or as parents who are just trying to get through to their children. Similarly, audiences may recognize Evan as Benji from the 2012 box-office hit Pitch Perfect, creating more incentive to see the movie star on a new platform.

Dear Evan Hansen first premiered at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. in 2015 and then moved to the Off-Broadway Second Stage Theatre in early 2016. It finally opened in Broadway’s Music Box Theatre on December 4, 2016, and much like the new smash hit Hamilton, the show is sold out well into 2018. It will be starting its national tour in Denver, Colorado, in October of 2018, so that those who aren’t able to get their hands on tickets for Broadway can still experience the story. Platt has worked tirelessly for two years, after using his understudy only once through the entire production in order to preserve his voice for the 2017 Tony Awards where he performed “Waving Through a Window,” the first song released from the original cast recording. His contract ended in November of 2017 and actor Noah Galvin has stepped into the role, beginning his journey with the show at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The show continues to grasp the hearts of audiences around the country, as they continue to fall for Evan’s story of love, regret, and forgiveness. Grab tickets to the traveling show or the show on Broadway before they disappear.