Review: Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway

Ben Platt as Evan in Dear Evan Hasen. Production photo by Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen is THE musical on Broadway for the 2016-2017 season, and deservedly so. It won six 2017 Tony awards, including Best Musical. I loved this show so much, if I could’ve score tickets to see it the next night, I would have gone again. It is that good. This show was the singular reason I engineered a mini NYC trip out of an extended stopover on my way to Toronto for a wedding. I ended up shelling out a grimace worthy dollar amount because of a flight mix-up. And I still don’t regret going to see this show. That’s how much I loved it.

Warning: This review does contain spoilers for the plot.

As described in its official website:

“A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to finally fit in. Both deeply personal and profoundly contemporary, Dear Evan Hansen is a new American musical about life and the way we live it.”

Basically, the story is about a high school outcast Evan Hansen who suffers from social anxiety. He gets mistakenly involved in the aftermath of a classmate’s suicide, then invented a much bigger role for himself which inevitably lead to the situation blowing up in his face.

Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs and jump straight to the review. I’m going to give you a bit of a background story first.

Background

I first found out about this show from a colleague at work. Most of my interests are very niche: PF, Disney theme parks, musicals. So, imagine my excitement to find out a colleague and his wife are into musicals.

That was at the beginning of 2017, at the time I had a Mother’s Day trip to NYC planned, but the plan was to go see Anastasia and Sunset boulevard during the 5-day trip. So, while I was debating squeezing Dear Evan Hansen into my schedule, the Tony nominations came out and the show was instantly sold out during my stay. At that point I was only mildly bummed out.

Then in the summer, I started running and to my delight I found Broadway original soundtracks to be the best music companion. It’s music but with a plot! Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack became one of my go-to run playlists. The more I listened to the soundtrack, the more I liked it. It’s more of a modern pop musical.  The entire song list is solid, which is rare. I usually only like about one third to half of the songs on the original cast recordings. I got my eyes on the CD for Christmas, since my car sadly doesn’t come with an audio jack to plug my devices in.

By early summer, I’m really into Dear Evan Hansen’s music and was sad that I didn’t get to see it when I was in NYC in May. When I received my friend’s wedding invitation for early November, I looked at if I can do a 2-night stopover in NYC. It turns out it’s the same number of Aeroplan miles to fly directly to Toronto as doing a stopover. The stars are aligned! I went ahead and bought my tickets, which were premium pricing at this point, Ouch. And I prayed that Ben Platt will be acting that night, and he was.

I arrived in JFK in the afternoon, managed to make it to my Chelsea hostel to drop off my bag and grab a bite before the show.

The Show

The Music Box Theatre is small & intimate. I would say this is the smallest theater I’ve personally been to in Broadway. I had an aisle seat in mid left Orchestra, with a direct line of sight down to the stage. This is good because I feel like the seating area incline is small and I probably would have had a hard time seeing behind a tall person.

The set uses several translucent panels cleverly to display social media feeds, they were used very effectively to create tension or urgency for parts of the show.

Production photo by Matthew Murphy

Now, the meat of the review. The show was Amazing. I cried my heart out.

Not bringing tissues to this show was my biggest mistake that night. I had to run to the bathroom during intermission, so I don’t embarrass myself with my face full of tears and snot. I comfort myself with the thought that Ben Platt is probably not doing much better on stage. He was living, breathing Evan and we were right there with him balling our eyes out. Ben Platt was breathtakingly good as the social outcast protagonist. He was made the audience laugh and had beautiful vibrato when he sang. Most importantly, he immersed you in the Story. Other cast members were quite wonderful as well, Laura Dreyfuss has the most amazing clarity in her singing. But Ben Platt was this show’s undeniable star. *Ben Platt has left the show in Nov 2017, just a couple of days after I saw it*

The characters were very relatable. I see many of my co-workers in both mothers in the show. The plot was somewhat predictable but not cheesy. I’m happy to say that a lot of the assumptions I made after hearing the soundtrack turned out to be wrong.

As I have mentioned earlier, the music is more contemporary POP. Waving Through a Window is the catchiest song. My roommate thought this was a very happy song until I told her what it’s about. It’s the ‘Knock, knock, knocking on the glass’ line. Most of the soundtrack spent time being my favorite song this summer. My top songs are Waving Through a Window, For Forever, You Will be Found, Requiem and Only Us. There, I just named half the song list, that’s how good this soundtrack is.

I’m usually not one to buy Merchandise for a show. I bought a Dear Evan Hansen Travel mug and a long sleeve T-shirt that says “You will be Found”. On top of that, when the cast came out after the curtain to ask for donations for Broadway Cares, I bought a signed copy of playbill for $80. All of all, I spent an atrocious amount of money on Dear Evan Hansen related things. I don’t regret the money spent at all.

Although Ben Platt has finished his run as titular character in Dear Evan Hansen. I think this show is still very much worth seeing.

Go. Bring tissue. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Let me know if you’ve seen Dear Evan Hansen or heard the soundtrack. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Another musical I saw on this trip was A Band’s Visit, I also enjoyed that show very much. Read Review HERE.