“Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway: A Review

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a stage musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and book by Steven Levenson. The musical opened on Broadway at the “Music Box” Theatre in December 2016.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is an emotional take on some of the biggest problems of modern society — dysfunctional family and mental issues. And the eternal problem of lies. It is a great musical for all ages — it will touch the same strings in you as well as in your teenage kid. You will find great tickets for it on BroadwayPass.

Evan Hansen is the nerdy kid that every class has. He has a couple of friends and was raised only by his mother after his father left them when Evan was a little kid. He has a crush on Zoe, the sister of the school bully — Connor, who is our other major character although he doesn’t have much “stage time”. Connor is a troubled kid from a dysfunctional family. He is the typical rebellious teen that doesn’t pay much attention to his family.

Both of them are anti-social. Evan has a couple of friends — his family friend Jared and his classmate Alana. Connor, judging by his mother’s reaction at a later point, doesn’t have many friends implying that he’s not our typical rich bully kid with his unique of “henchmen” like the Regina from “Mean Girls” and her Plastics.

Evan suffers from anxiety and his therapist has advised him to write letters to himself. After a bit of a violent encounter between the two, Connor finds one of those letters where, among else, mentions his crush on Zoe. Infuriated, he keeps the letter. But commits suicide later that day. The letter is found in his pocket and considered a suicide note by his family. Both Evan and Connor suffer from a different type of mental issues. Connor’s anger outbursts and “rebellious” behavior and Evan’s anxiety are probably related to the same source — family. Although Evan’s mother — Heidi — does her best to give Evan all her love and attention, she cannot fill the place of the missing father. Connor tries to grab the attention of his always busy parents by acting out. This is a common problem in all families where both parents are busy providing for their children. Both social anxiety and bullying are global problems. Societies all over the world do their best to face and defeat them — campaigns, meetings, digital content, social media. And it takes “a little patience and little perseverance” with a pinch of communication to change it a make the difference to a Connor or an Even you know. “Dear Evan Hansen” does a spectacular job of raising awareness of those issues by taking them to the Broadway stage.

Evan pays the Murphys a visit where he ties his monstrous knot of lies by stating that he and Connor were friends and kept in touch by a couple of secret email accounts and hanging out in an abandoned orchard where he broke his arm. Then he lies to his mother that he was never close with Connor. After this, he asks Jared to help him create the two fake accounts that he and Connor used to “communicate” in order to fabricate evidence. Even then shows those emails to the Murphy family which brings them a storm of emotions — his Cynthia is happy that her son had a friend, Larry is disappointed by most of his son’s action, while Zoe gets in an argument with her mother (their second of many). Zoe asks why she is mentioned in note and after exchanging some words Evan tries to kiss her but he’s pushed away. This may be considered the main story arch of the musical because all of Evan’s fortunes — and misfortunes — revolve around this meeting with the Murphy family.

Leo Tolstoy begins his legendary novel “Anna Karenina” with the line “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and we can easily apply the latter part to the Hansens and the Murphys. Heidi Hansen had to raise Evan without his father constantly being at work to provide for her son which makes them grow apart. At one point Evan accuses her of “never being around”. They can be classified as a classic case of a dysfunctional family with a single parent. Meanwhile, the wealthy Murphy family has issues with Connor acting out and ignoring his parents’ advice. Both Cynthia and Heidi struggle to connect with their boys. Things get worse after Connor’s death and his crushed family finds solace in his “only friend” — Evan. Evan, on the other hand, finds the family he lacked his entire life with Larry Murphy as his father-like figure. Larry gives Evan an old baseball glove that Connor never used and Cynthia gives him a necktie. Zoe kisses Evan after his passionate speech at her brother’s funeral. All sides are satisfied and pieces fall into place. Only to form the perfect storm.

The Murphys offer Evan Connor’s college fund which leaves Heidi stunned and leads to a heated discussion where Evan accuses her of never being around and their relation reach their breaking point. Evan’s relations with Alana fall apart and she withdraws from the “Connor Projects”. The “Connor Project” is Evan’s way to pay homage to his gone “friend”. Evan has a falling out with Jared as well after an argument about the fake accounts and threats of exposing each other. Everything eventually erupts when Alana posts Evan’s letter on the site of the “Connor Project”. This leads to a wave of accusations to the Murphys for not being there for their son. This leads to Evan confessing his chain of lies and send Cynthia and Zoe away crying and making Larry disgusted by him. Whatever started as a white, noble lie ended hurt feelings, broken trust and lots of tears.

After the storm of emotions that gives to the audience, “Dear Evan Hansen” gives them a worthy bitter-sweet ending. Heidi discovers that Connor’s suicide note is actually Evan’s letter to himself. She and Evan have a talk where she confesses her guilt and then they reconcile. He eventually reaches for Zoe. They meet at the renewed orchard “so Evan can see it” where they share an intimate moment.

“Dear Evan Hansen” received the stunning nine nominations at the 71st Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Rachel Bay Jones. It launched the young Ben Platt (the original Evan) to Broadway stardom. His acting as the anxious teenager was marvelous and he brilliantly played his shenanigans. Today Evan is played by the up-and-coming star Andrew Barth Feldman — a way younger and geekier Evan, but nonetheless brilliant! Rachel Bay Jones was superb in her role as Evan’s single mother — Heidi. Great performance by a Broadway household name like her’s. Mike Faist made a great impact as Connor even with his limited time. Laura Dreyfuss was amazing as his passionate sister Zoe. It is only a matter of time for them to turn into some of Broadway’s finest.

The music acts are some of the finest performed currently on Broadway. It’s no surprise that the original score won Benj Pasek and Justin Paul a Tony award. They’ve added it to their Oscar for the music in “La La Land”. They are also the men behind “The Greatest Showman”. The music acts in “Dear Evan Hansen” represent perfectly what this musical is — a storm of emotions. The optimistic “Waving Through a Window”, the romantic “If I Could Tell Her”, the rather dark “Requiem” the philosophic “Sincerely, Me” and the powerful “You Will Be Found”.

The Music Box Theatre barely handles the storm of emotions that rages there every evening. It is good that this story ends on a higher note. Problems like those of Evan and Connor are pretty common amongst everyone, especially with people at their tender age. It is good to know that whatever happens — it will pass and nothing is more important in life than family.

And if you want to read more of our articles, you can check our previous one on Waitress!

Additional Broadway Resources

Please visit one of the best publications out there covering everything about Broadway shows. One of our favorite resources there is this review of Mean Girls.

The publication also contains ticket guides — articles that help you with information on how to buy tickets for various Broadway shows. For example — find out all the ways to purchase discounted tickets for Chicago the Musical.

Disney has been making inroads to Broadway. As a result there are many shows nowadays based on movies. To find out more about Lion King on Broadway click here. Another Disney blockbuster is Aladdin. You can find more about it in this excellent Aladdin review and plot summary.

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