Dear Evan Hansen is this year’s breakthrough Broadway musical. Opening in December 2016, it has been widely acclaimed and continues to gain fans. The musical took home a well-deserved six Tony Awards a couple of weeks ago, including the ones for Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical. Reactions to this show are ones of astonishment at an unexpected, yet truly touching emotional journey.
The hit musical deals with extremely delicate subjects in a very realistic, but sensitive way. Creators Benjamin Pasek and Justin Paul were exceptionally careful in their writing to deal with the topic of teen suicide in the right way. They consulted mental health professionals to make sure that “the subject was treated thoughtfully and sensitively,” as to not “provoke anything,” but still “make sure what we were telling felt truthful and honest.”
The story centers on a teenager (Evan Hansen) with a broken arm and an anxiety disorder that writes letters to himself as part of an assignment from his therapist. Things take a turn for the worse when someone at school takes and runs off with one of Evan’s letters and turns up a few days later, dead, having committed suicide with the letter in his pocket. Because the letter is addressed to Evan Hansen, people believe it to be a suicide note, and therefore believe Evan and Connor (the boy who stole the letter) to be friends, which they were not. The story further unfolds in a chain of well-meaning, but ill-advised lies that gain Evan social-media popularity status, the girl of his dreams, the kind warmth of Connor’s family, and acceptance.
In a story that goes places, many others are too afraid to, Pasek and Paul touch on many very real issues, concerns, and feelings that often go unnoticed or disregarded in a person’s life. It’s a story about fear, acceptance, love, and communication that is so fitting for this time of technology-driven lives that our world seems to lead. “Evan, like all of us, craves the old-fashioned kind [of communication]: ‘needing to be known,’ as Pasek puts it, ‘needing to be seen, needing to be heard, needing to be found – wanting to be loved and accepted for who we really are.’” One of the show’s most popular songs, “Waving Through a Window,” captures this sentiment perfectly with its fluid melody, unique set design and staging, clever lyrics, and emotional delivery. Click here to watch the performance of the song from the Tony Awards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vkTxakkho4.
The message that this musical seeks to deliver is a valuable one: to anyone who feels down, lost, alone, forgotten, or neglected — you will be found.