There are some musicals that come highly recommended or receive excellent reviews. Others resonate with you for months or even years after seeing them. These shows are very rare, with the perfect combination of relatable subject matter, emotional connection and unique storytelling. The off-Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen not only manages to grasp this quintessential balance, but it exceeds the levels of authenticity that most shows reach. There are countless reasons why you must see this fresh new musical, but here are our top ten:
1) Ben Platt
This is his role. Famous for his portrayal as Benji Applebaum in the film Pitch Perfect, this role showcases Platt’s voice, talent and ability to portray a character in such an honest, human way. It is truly refreshing to see him in an original musical tailor-made to his remarkable skills and expertise. His deep attachment to the role heightens the authenticity to a point that you fail to remember that he’s acting; you only see Evan. He is so real, raw and emotional and is absolutely astonishing to watch.
2) The Score
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are two of the most promising young musical theatre writers today. Since first collaborating on musicals while attending the University of Michigan, they’ve subsequently crafted music for several musicals together including Dogfight, James and the Giant Peach and their song cycle Edges. With this score, they perfectly captured the language that this story requires to speak to their generation — people trying to figure out who they are and their purpose in life. The contemporary, modern pop tunes and emotional ballads have relatable lyrics that impeccably describe what it means to feel invisible while other songs use inspirational phrases to bring an uplifting and hopeful message. Rich with meaning, this score is filled with catchy melodies that will definitely join the ranks of most cherished musical theatre songs.
There are some dark and difficult themes throughout the musical, and are dealt with in a very truthful manner. Whether dealing with anxiety, loneliness, family issues, friendship or suicide, these themes are woven into the story in a seamless and effective manner. The show does not sugarcoat its heavy themes, something noteworthy and uncommon in musicals. Being a teenager is hard, and this show displays that nobody is alone in their feelings of awkwardness and extreme despair. Despite the weighty themes, the show is filled with countless witty one-liners that keep you smiling through your tears, an exemplary balance of sadness and humor.
4) Michael Greif
Michael Greif has directed shows like Rent, Next To Normal and If/Then on Broadway, as well as several Off-Broadway productions. He has been nominated for three Tony Awards for directing Rent, Grey Gardens and Next To Normal. He is able to bring out emotion and honesty from his actors in a way that few directors can do. His expertise and exquisite artistry are prominently displayed through his direction. Anyone familiar with his work would definitely find hints of Greif’s trademark style in Dear Evan Hansen.
5) The cast
Not only is each cast member perfectly suited to their role, they’re completely believable as well. The actors are so authentic that it feels like you’re getting a glimpse into the lives of real people. Each actor has their time to shine because of the small size of the cast. Along with Ben Platt, the cast includes the remarkable and heartbreaking Rachel Bay Jones as Heidi, Jennifer Laura Thompson as the anguished Cynthia, Laura Dreyfuss’ delicate and uneasy Zoe, Mike Faist as angsty teen Connor, the hilarious Will Roland as Jared, Kristolyn Lloyd as know-it-all Alana and John Dossett’s complex and stoic Larry. The extraordinary performances cause the audiences to become deeply involved in the characters’ lives to the point that they genuinely feel the emotion seep into their souls.
6) New, original material
This musical is completely original, and not based off a book or a movie. Watching a musical unfold with a never-done-before storyline makes it more eye-opening, fresh and engaging. Walking into this musical without already having seeing other actors portray these roles onscreen truly makes this exponentially more significant, meaningful and pure.
7) So many audience members relate to Evan
Theatergoers connect most strongly with shows when they feel an emotional bond with the characters. In this case, most people have gone through — or are still going through — the similar awkwardness and loneliness of school and directly identify with Evan and his struggles. The importance of having characters that represent the audiences is crucial to show that others are in the same situation and to feel more hopeful and less alone.
8) The power of social media on display
This musical shows the power of social media and how quickly messages spread globally. It expresses the fast way that videos or posts can go viral and how social media can be used to connect with others emotionally, spread inspiring messages, offer support and let people know that they are not alone. Communicating with others has never been so automatic, and Dear Evan Hansen demonstrates that even the story of one kid at a high school can quickly trigger a worldwide discussion amongst internet users.
9) The family dynamics
Dear Evan Hansen portrays family dynamics in an extremely genuine way: they are often strained, especially if there is a busy parent, a kid who feels alone or a kid who rebels. This show displays that even though you are family, you may not be aware of each other’s inner struggles and pain. Just like Next To Normal, Dear Evan Hansen showcases that musical theatre doesn’t need to have flawless, impeccable characters and perfect families to be powerful.
10) Delves into the psychological aspects of what human beings do to fit in
Hidden underneath the multidimensional storyline is a very psychological snapshot of activities and actions people do when trying to fit in. Occasionally, these actions are done without any negative intentions, yet sometimes when looked at on a subconscious level, these actions point to a different motive. In this show, Evan gets tangled in lies because he says he just wants to help, however others suspect he simply wants to gain friends and attention.