I saw the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen” with the Activities Program Board (APB) in February 2020. Stageagent.com summarized the show well, saying it “[T]ells the story of a young man with social anxiety disorder who so yearns to make a connection with his peers, that he fabricates a relationship with a deceased student to become closer to the boy’s family.”
This was by accident, and all he was trying to do was help.
The topics of suicide and anxiety are extremely relevant today, especially in the age of social media. In fact, the set is full of screens that light up with notifications throughout the show. “Dear Evan Hansen” won six Tony Awards in 2017 including Best Musical.
The singing and acting were absolutely phenomenal and had the entire audience in tears numerous times. Listening to the album alone is fantastic, but seeing how each song translated on the stage gave the show a new meaning to me.
You can feel the characters’ pain, anger and sadness in a way that I have never experienced in live theater before. After that, I completely understood why it got all the praise it did. It had a fairly small cast and simple blocking, which is staging the actors and actresses throughout the show, and set design. I personally loved this, because it put more focus on the characters, and a large set and big cast was unnecessary. It was not your typical kick line and jazz hands type of show.
The perhaps most well-known song, “You Will Be Found” closes the first act perfectly, reminding the audience of the positive impact Evan had on people’s lives. Many people were still in tears during the intermission. While I do not want to spoil the plot, I will say that things start to go downhill in the second act.
Ben Platt, who is known from Netflix’s “The Politician” or as Benji in “Pitch Perfect” originated the role of Evan Hansen. When I saw the show, Jordan Fisher was supposed to play the role, but his understudy, Zachary Noah Piser, performed instead. While I was disappointed at first that I would not see Fisher, Piser did an outstanding job and I am so lucky to have seen such a talented actor on that stage.
I often think about how little recognition understudies get. They work just as hard as the main actors, and I believe they deserve much more credit. I think they have more pressure put on them because many people expect a different, sometimes more well-known, actor. Through the challenging music and mentally exhausting acting, it is safe to say that Evan Hansen is one of the most challenging roles on Broadway.
Powerful lyrics like, “No one deserves to be forgotten” and “When you’re broken on the ground / You will be found” display the overall theme of the show perfectly: That you are not alone.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Because this show deals with this topic, I have included resources below if you or someone you know need to seek help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org or the Shippensburg University Counseling Center: (717) 477-1481 or ship.edu/life/wellness/counseling-center/