Social media lies at the center of our lives, and some say that the only place where people turn off their phones is in the theater. But as you sit in the audience of the Music Box Theater to see Dear Evan Hansen, you hear the sound of a text message notification as the show begins. Before you can reach to silence your phone, you realize that it is coming from the stage. Starring Pitch Perfect’s Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical that brings attention to the drastic effects of social media and social anxiety on the lives of high school students. The show follows a quirky and nervous high school senior, Evan Hansen, as he struggles to fit in at school and establish a stable relationship with his busy mother (Rachel Bay Jones). When a misunderstanding makes Evan the center of attention, he is caught in a huge lie that only grows as the story progresses. Platt’s remarkable acting shows Evan’s internal conflict where he can either tell the truth and disappoint those around him, or continue lying while maintaining his new popularity and the happiness of his peers.
Although the show has only been on Broadway since the middle of November 2016, critics already expect it to win many Tony awards this coming June. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who recently won a Golden Globe for their work on La La Land, and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire of Hamilton, the music is a leading factor in the show’s success. “A lot of my friends have seen it and every single time when one of them has come back from the show, they have been raving about the music,” noted Maisie Suzman ’19. The cast recording quickly reached #1 for albums on iTunes shortly after
it was released on February 3rd. “My favorite part was definitely the music because it was really well written, and not only was the music good, but the lyrics were very inspirational, as well,” explained Melissa Gottlieb ’19. The songs range from being humorous to heart-rending, but regardless of this variety, each one fits perfectly into the story.
An original touch to the show is the set, which is made up of screens that display images of Evan’s computer desktop, Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. This provides an extremely detailed look into the lives of each character and how they interact through social networks. “The set was really cool, and the fact that it was based around technology and that you could see social media on the screens around the stage was really interesting,” noted Gottlieb. The screens are used at all times, which reflects the non-stop use of technology in every part of our lives today.
The cast is smaller than any other show on Broadway’s cast, featuring only eight actors. Each character’s unique and interesting personality makes it so that not one character goes unnoticed. These include Evan’s sweet and sometimes soft spoken crush, Zoe Murphy (Laura Dreyfuss), his audacious family friend, Jared Kleinman (Will Roland), and his overachieving classmate, Alana Beck (Kristolyn Lloyd). All of the actors beautifully and realistically portray their roles, providing those who are coping with similar issues to Evan and the other characters a story that is relatable and allows their voices to be heard. The musical ultimately recognizes that these issues do exist in the real world, although they are often unnoticed in the big picture. In this new perspective, the audience is left with the rather upsetting idea that some people “feel invisible and alone and like nobody would even notice if [they] vanished into thin air,” as one character admits.
Dear Evan Hansen is a must-see musical that sends a powerful and unforgettable message to all of its audience members. Though the plot is heartbreaking, it truly leaves viewers thinking for days afterwards. “I’ve even heard friends say that their lives have changed and that they think of everything so differently now,” mentioned Suzman. All aspects of the show are unprecedented; the phenomenal music and acting, as well as captivating plot, put Dear Evan Hansen in the running to win Best Musical at the Tonys later this year. “I would say that it is one of the best Broadway shows I have ever seen,” exclaimed Gottlieb.
by Talia Schulhof