Dear Evan Hansen is among the newest game-changer musicals on Broadway. Similar to other ground-breaking musicals premiered in prestigious theatres in modern history, it has sparked a new formula in approaching the contemporary audience by giving light to current issues. Mental health issues are among the troubles to which today’s generation has become more open. And after the hardships experienced during the pandemic, mental health concerns have become more apparent. Dear Evan Hansen is a musical that fosters acceptance and understanding of these problems, becoming a beacon of light to many struggling people. In two hours, you will experience rousing music and breathtaking staging. One thing is for sure: this musical will tug at your heartstrings. See the musical at the Stranahan Theatre this summer. Bring with you some napkins because this is a tearjerker.
“Dear Evan Hansen beautifully explores the search for love.” — Nicola Quinn
“For anyone who ever sat alone at lunch, Dear Evan Hansen has an enduring message: You will be found.” — The Hollywood Reporter
Dear Evan Hansen, mostly called by the abbreviation DEH is the brainchild of Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Steven Levenson, and Michael Greiff. Pasek and Paul collaborated in the early 2010s to create a musical inspired by the human “obsession with personalizing tragedy.” While Pasek was in high school, he noticed that when someone died at their school, they tended to remember the deceased through their own experience. In an interview, he says, “We wanted to create a show that felt poetic but also fresh and relevant.” In 2011, they entrusted Steven Levenson, who was mainly a television writer, to the book of the musical. In the next five years, they joined forces and developed the plot of DEH. It was a difficult task, especially dealing with complex and sensitive themes. However, they were able to come up with a solid storyline fit for the theatre stage. After the story’s finalization, they began their workshops and readings. During this time, Michael Greiff held the reigns to realizing the story to the stage as its director. In its development period, it was first named The PPL Project.
“One of the most remarkable shows in musical history.” — The Washington Post
The musical’s story centers on Evan Hansen, a high school student who is struggling with social anxiety and depression. He had felt like an outcast before his diagnosis, and somehow when labels were relegated to his mental health problems, connecting with people became extra hard. In the first act, the story begins with Evan struggling to have his cast (which he acquired after falling from a tree) signed. He then bumps into Connor Murphy, who was hostile towards him at first but signed his cast after they bump into each other again. Their interaction did not end well, and Evan did not hear from him afterward. Days later, Evan was called to the principal’s office and told of grim news about Connor. The act ends with Evan “inventing an important role for himself in a tragedy that he did not earn.”
The second act focuses on this conflict. Evan has pushed himself forward on a lie. After that, it was a downward spiral, and he had to find a way in all the mess and make-believe coping of a sad tragedy. As much as the musical is encouraging, it is also a cautionary story. It tells about the dangers of a simple lie and how it can internally and externally destroy people who hold on to it.
Critics have been raving about the musical’s premise since it reminds people that they are not alone in their struggles. Many of the songs are introspective. Some give off a message of strength and resilience. This is shown by reviews like CBS News, which declared that the musical is “a brilliant message of hope and humanity.”
DEH premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. As expected, it was a significant hit among critics and theatergoers. This resulted in an immediate move to an off-Broadway theater at the Second Stage in 2016. It ran there for several months before reaching Broadway in the latter part of 2016. It opened at the Music Box Theatre and was a breakout hit. The musical was sold out on its eight times per week of shows. It was also credited as among the musicals that brought Broadway to the young demographic.
DEH’s high demand led to many productions but national and international. Among the international productions, the first premiere was the Canadian sit-down production, which opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Canada. This was in 2019, and other shows followed. The West End production took little time to begin its run after Canada, which also opened in 2019. A Buenos Aires production opened in May 2023 and continues to run up to this writing.
While the musical received exponential success, a movie adaptation was realized in 2021. The Perks of Being a Wallflower director Stephen Chbosky led the recreation to the screen. Steven Levenson wrote the movie’s screenplay to stay true to the script. Ben Platt, whose breakout role as Evan Hansen from the musical, reprised his role. Also reprising her role was Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy, Evan’s love interest and Connor’s sister. The cast includes veteran actors like Amy Adams as Cynthia Murphy, Julianne Moore as Heidi Hansen, and Amandla Stenberg as Alana Beck.
The Broadway production was among the most successful during the 2017 Tony Awards. In its run on Broadway, the musical won six Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Orchestration, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Rachel Bay Jones’ performance as Heidi Hansen, and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt. On the other hand, the West End production won three 2020 Laurence Olivier Awards: Best New Musical, Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Sam Tutty as Evan, and Best Original Score or New Orchestrations.
Dear Evan Hansen will be shown at the Stranahan Theatre this summer. Catch the touring cast and ensemble consisting of Anthony Norman as Evan Hansen, Alaina Anderson as Zoe Murphy, Coleen Sextoas Heidi Hansen, Lili Thomas as Cynthia Murphy, August Emerson as Connor Murphy, John Hemphill as Larry Murphy, Pablo David Laucerica as Jared Kleinman, and Micaela Lamas as Alana Beck. To learn more about the musical and to reserve tickets, you can hit the “Get Tickets” link on this site.