Dear Evan Handsome
I, like probably most other Americans, thought that after the wildfire success of Hamilton, that Broadway had peaked, patted itself on its back for a job so well done, and clicked off the lights. Thankfully, that’s totally untrue. Broadway is still churning out works of art and it turns out that at least one of them is bloody brilliant - that one being Dear Evan Hansen.
Dear Evan Hansen is new Broadway musical that tells the story of a socially awkward misfit, Evan Hansen, who, at the advice of his therapist, writes a letter to himself each morning: “Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day, here’s why…” Well, one day as Evan writes this letter to himself at his school’s computer lab, another lonely misfit named Connor finds it and berates Evan about the letter. Connor steals the letter and storms off.
Days later, Evan is called to the principals office. When he arrives, Connor’s parents inform Evan that Connor killed himself and that they found a letter addressed to Evan Hansen in his pocket. Connor’s parents, under the assumption that Connor and Evan must have been friends that wrote letters to each other, ask Evan through tears about their relationship and Evan, riddled with anxiety and unable to tell the grieving parents that their son was actually a bully who had stolen Evan’s self-addressed letter, goes along with it. What starts out as a little lie grows and grows as Evan fabricates a mass exchange of emails to serve as evidence of the nonexistent friendship between Evan and Connor. As the emails go public, other students come together to start a viral online presence they call The Connor Project. Meanwhile, Evan is becoming closer and closer with Connor’s family and distancing himself more and more from his own mother.
Evan Hansen is played by Ben Platt. Ben Platt is insanely talented. I got to see Book of Mormon in Chicago a couple of years ago where Ben Platt played the role of Elder Cunningham and I thought he was absolutely terrific and his delivery and comedic timing was side-splitting.
Because so much of what Evan does throughout the show is morally ambiguous, the role demands a certain level of vulnerability from the actor portraying him in order for the audience to remain on his side. Platt plays the role flawlessly. He will give you all the feels you could ever ask for plus half a dozen extra free of charge.
Another aspect that helps with the moral ambiguity of the show is the fact that the music is damn near perfect. The music allows us to glimpse into the soul of the characters in a way not otherwise achievable, which allows the audience to relate and empathize with what the characters are going through and where they’re coming from.
The music for the show was done by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who also wrote the lyrics for the contemporary movie-musical La La Land. Steven Levenson wrote the book, meaning he’s the mastermind behind the brilliant and original story and all the characters involved. Michael Greif, whose name you might recognize because he’s a Broadway legend, directed the show. He also directed Rent and Next to Normal.
Get this soundtrack. See it on Broadway if you can. Try to find video clips of it online (if you’re into that.) This show is spectacular and, let’s be one-hundred, you can use a break from Hamilton. It’ll still be there when you come back.