“Dear Evan Hansen” Exceeds Expectations
By MAYA MASHEB
With 6 Tony awards under its belt, including one for 2017’s Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” is leaving its mark on the world of Broadway.
Originally a book by Steven Levenson, the play centers on the role that social media plays in shaping teenagers’ self-esteem and in spreading misinformation. In the musical, socially anxious teenager Evan Hansen begins writing letters to himself by request of his therapist. The self-addressed letters always begin with “Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a great day, and here’s why.” However, none of his peers are aware of this daily ritual, and when Evan’s classmate Connor Murphy commits suicide, Connor’s parents find the letter causing everyone to believe that it was Connor who wrote the letter to Evan. Evan becomes entangled in a series of lies, resistant to tell the truth and face the judgments of Connor’s family and sister, who doubles as Evan’s love interest. The musical ends with Connor’s family questioning who their son truly was, piecing together falsified stories and stark reality.
Hearing all of the buzz surrounding “Dear Evan Hansen” my expectations were high. And, to say the least, the show exceeded my expectations. Ben Platt encapsulated all that one would expect from a socially awkward teenager in the role of Evan Hansen. His strong yet mellifluous voice brought new levels to the Broadway show that few other actors’ voices could parallel. Evident through sobs heard across the theater, it was hard for the audience not to sympathize for the struggles of Evan to overcome his crippling anxiety, and of Evan’s mother Heidi to support her emotionally fragile son. Heidi, played by Rachel Bay Jones, beautifully embraced the role of a mother striving to balance supporting her son both financially and emotionally. Connor’s mother Cynthia Murphy, a put-together, privileged woman, served as a perfect foil to Heidi.
Aside from the characters, the music also contributed to making “Dear Evan Hansen” a hit. Written by Tony award winners Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, the songs exemplify the actors’ vast talents, in addition to evoking emotion amongst the audience in a way that words themselves cannot. Catchy and melodic songs like the opening number “Anybody Have a Map?”, “Waving Through a Window”, and “For Forever” helped further the message of the musical. In addition to the music, the innovative set design also contributed to constantly reminding the audience of the show’s message. The use of paneled screens as a backdrop featuring social media updates was familiar to the audience, most of whom most likely spend plentiful hours staring at their cell phone screens, constantly awaiting new posts. The set design became somewhat interactive, as audience members could hear the sounds of an incoming tweet and read new messages and Twitter posts on the screens.
Junior Christine B. saw the play in May and thought highly of the production. “‘Dear Evan Hansen’ was one of the best shows I’ve seen. I think it’s unique in the fact that it’s relatable. I find that every single character can be matched to you or a person in your life, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the show is doing so well. Whether you’re a single parent, nervous teen, or an outgoing person, I can guarantee you’ll see a piece of you on that stage,” she said. Christine also praised the show’s tackling of relevant and modern issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Ben Platt is leaving on November 19th, so make sure to make your way down to Music Box Theatre. Trust me–you do not want to miss the chance to see 2017’s Best Leading Actor in a Musical and the rest of the award-winning cast in this performance.
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