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After this year’s Tonys, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss was about with Dear Evan Hansen. Nominated for nine awards, it won seven, including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical. And all season long, it’s been nearly impossible to find tickets, sending hopeful theater-goers to Stubhub. On the Friday night before the awards ceremony, the Knickerbocker team saw the show to see for ourselves what about it had everyone buzzing. Here’s why Dear Evan Hanson on Broadway took the award jurors by storm.
Dear Evan Hansen is not an easy-going show. Evan, suffering from depression, follows his therapist’s instructions and writes a letter to himself that another student, Conner Murphy, finds. Conner commits suicide, and his parents’ only clue is a note they found in his pocket…the letter to Evan. Longing to soothe Conner’s parents, Evan tells them that he and Conner were best friends. His simple lie rapidly spirals out of control, affecting not just Conner’s family, but Evan, his mother, and the entire school as well.
It’s impossible not to be swept up into the messy plot when the music is so catchy. Now-Tony-Winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote both music and lyrics to Dear Evan Hansen, leave audiences humming. Our favorite song we hadn’t heard before? “Requiem,” in which the Murphy’s, Conner’s family (his sister, played by Laura Dreyfuss, his father, played by Michael Park, and mother, played by Jennifer Laura Thompson) sing about their varying levels of grief and anger after his death.
Ben Platt is Broadway’s Golden Boy right now. He won the Tony as well as the Drama League Award for his portrayal of Evan, and his performance of “Waving through a Window” on Late Night with Seth Meyers has almost 2 million views. Unfortunately, The Knickerbocker team can’t tell you what he’s like live. On our night, understudy Colton Ryan played Evan (Platt was probably resting his voice in advance of the Tonys). What we can tell you is that Colton Ryan was unbelievably impressive. We’re expecting great things from the rising star, who had us leaving the theater thinking, “Ben Platt, who?”
Rachel Bay Jones stole our hearts (and nabbed a Tony) playing Evan’s mother, who’s struggling as she juggles her full-time nursing career with being a single mom. We also loved Kristolyn Lloyd as Alana Beck, another school misfit who finds a mission in helping the school heal after Conner’s death. Each of the Murphy’s, including Conner, played by Mike Faist, bring heartfelt sympathy to their roles as they try to cope with loss throughout the show.
Yes, the show is about teen suicide, loneliness and depression. But it’s also about finding yourself. Evan is a Lost Boy of sorts who learns through mistake after mistake that he’s not as alone as he thought. An important show for anyone who’s ever been bullied or felt abandoned, Dear Evan Hansen reminds audiences of the importance of reaching out a hand.