by Sarah Nove (‘20)
After the unprecedented success of “Hamilton,” many doubted that any show would be able to rival its popularity. Though no production since has garnered the same mass following, “Dear Evan Hansen” has come close.
The show, which took home six Tony Awards in 2017 including Best New Musical, regularly performs for sold-out audiences filled with devoted fans. After seeing the show last month at Music Box Theatre, it’s easy to understand why that’s the case.
“Dear Evan Hansen” is the story of Evan, an awkward teen with social anxiety, who finds himself wrapped up in a web of lies regarding a fellow misfit’s suicide. The music beautifully captures the characters’ struggles and emotions, both lyrically and instrumentally. The story is nuanced and avoids pigeonholing the characters into black-and-white categories. This approach to character development forces the audience to think of the characters complexly and contemplate the morality of each character’s actions.
One of the reasons why “Dear Evan Hansen” has such a large following is the broad range of meaningful topics it covers. The show confronts many issues that are often overlooked in popular media, including mental illness and severely dysfunctional families, with vulnerability and rawness.
My favorite example of this rawness is in Ben Platt’s acting. Platt, who plays Evan, showcases the unglamorous realities of mental illness. He often trembles, cries, and frantically shouts lines when Evan is feeling overwhelmed. Platt continuously expresses Evan’s anxiety through subtle body language, such as fiddling with the ends of his shirt or rubbing the back of his neck.
For people with anxiety, seeing Platt’s portrayal of Evan is like looking in a mirror. But even for people who don’t have anxiety, there is plenty to relate to in “Dear Evan Hansen.” By dealing with a broad spectrum of issues, the show gives everyone the chance to connect with the characters. This sense of connection between viewers and characters makes “Dear Evan Hansen” a must-see by reminding us all that we “are not alone.”