i would LOVE to hear your thoughts on dear evan hansen if ur up for it i have v strong feelings about it and most of it is disappointment
let’s get the two big bullet points out of the way first:
- ben platt absolutely deserved the “best actor” tony he received; his work as evan is the one of the most raw, all-in performances I’ve ever seen in a musical. four for you, ben platt. the cast is great across the board, actually, and the accolades they raked in aren’t misplaced.
- dear evan hansen should have at least lost the “best new musical” and “best music” tonys to natasha, pierre, and the great comet of 1812. even if I thought DEH was a complete success (I don’t), its themes of adolescent alienation, mental illness, suicide, and family struggle have been covered equally well by other musicals, including bare and next to normal. the score also isn’t anything new. the songs are fine, with some edging into very good, but again, I give you next to normal. it’s not that DEH is bad, it’s that it’s not breaking any new ground, and that’s what these particular awards exist to honor.
anyway, now that that’s taken care of.
My issue with dear evan hansen can be summed up in one sentence: it pulled its punches. this is a story about a kid who’s so socially anxious and desperate for recognition from his peers that he inserts himself into the life of a family who just lost their son to suicide. the first act understands how inherently fucked up that is for everyone, it follows Evan as does his best to soften the blow of loss for the Murphys, and then watches as that lie helps him fall ass-backwards into everything he ever wanted. it understands that despite Evan’s feelings of isolation and his attempts at kindness, he still has a bit of a nasty streak. he doesn’t pull the plug on the ‘me and Connor were so close’ charade because everything it got him feels so good; the girl of his dreams, parents who are always there, the world seeing him as valuable and important. Connor Murphy’s suicide gives Evan the chance to reinvent himself, and reinvent he does. his motivations are twisted up and sad and ugly, and even the “best” thing he pulls off - the creation of the Connor Project - only enters his head because he’s afraid of losing the pull that his connection to Connor gives him. Evan sees himself in Connor, and siphons off people’s anguish to soothe the pain of no one having noticed his own suicide attempt. once you’ve walked your protagonist to that point, you’ve created an emotional and thematic narrative that’s far too messy to be tied off into an uplifting bow. unfortunately, that’s exactly what the show tries to do.
the second act teeters on the same tightrope the first walked easily, effective at times (showcasing just how good at bullying Evan’s become when he rejects his own mother + his only friend in favor of the life the Murphys have offered him), less so at others (there’s a late-stage emphasis on pile-on culture that doesn’t go anywhere thematically). It’s not until the end that the show collapses into empty platitudes and pop psychology, knocking the teeth out of what until then has been a vicious tangle of hurt and resentment and grief. when Evan comes clean, we’re supposed to believe that all he ever wanted was to be loved, because his Dad Left, and his Mom Was Absent, and No One Noticed Him. this, despite the fact that we’ve seen Evan be desperate and oily throughout, ingratiating himself with the right words that lean on the right places, going so far as to lie to a girl about what her abusive brother thought of her so he could make a clean breast of how much he liked her.
this doesn’t make Evan a bad character; on the contrary, that little knot of meanness and desperation is what makes him such a good one. but the show refuses to commit to what it’s created. when he finally tells the Murphys the truth, their reaction of horror and betrayal is exactly what you’d expect–and then the next (and final) two scenes are:
- Evan’s mom cradling her son and telling him that she Should Have Been There More.
- Zoey Murphy fucking agreeing to see Evan again in his orchard of lies.
Because it’s fine, you know? It’s been a year since Evan nested into her family’s loss like a raccoon in an attic, and he did get people to kickstart an apple grove for her brother’s memory, so it’s basically like it never happened. People came together over Connor’s death despite Evan’s motives, and it helped the Murphys let go and move on and heal and oh my godddddddd am I going insane? am I the only person who thinks this is the tiredest, most knee-jerk ~closure~ bullshit they’ve ever heard? a breathtaking emotional wound can’t be handwaved away, and certainly not offstage in a cheap time lapse. ugh. if they wanted this ending, Evan should have confessed near the top of the act, and the story should have spent the next 45 minutes earning its neat, uncomplicated little cherry on top.
I guess at the end of the day I’m annoyed at this show. it starts as something interesting and difficult and very very human. it ends as something that’s had all the poison milked.