As a military brat, there was always an anxiety centered around going to school. Would they like me? Will I make any friends? Will that really cute boy even know I’m alive? I discovered very early, my journal could help me curb all that anxiety with an outlet to release in a private manner no one would ever have to see.
This is just one of the many reasons Dear Evan Hansen resonated with my core. Being an avid musical theatre fan, I was not fortunate to witness the powerful, important story onstage. Now, that I have, it literally has shifted my soul and spirit.
Directed by Stephen Chbosky and screenplay by Steven Levenson, this transformative tale follows the journey of Evan (Ben Platt), who after an encounter with Connor (Colton Ryan) finds himself entrenched with a family who is undergoing an unimaginable loss wanting nothing more than to connect with someone who knew him in a completely different light…or so we think.
Reprising his Tony award-winning role, Ben Platt doesn’t skip a beat as an awkward teen that goes from being bullied to being a hero thanks to the power of social media. His voice is more than angelic – it is simply a miraculous force of nature. As is the voice and songwriting skills of Amandla Stenberg (who wrote The Anonymous One sung by SZA in the end credits). The rest of the cast is stunt casts heavily with stars like Amy Adams (Cynthia Murphy), Kaitlyn Dever (Zoe Murphy), Julianne Moore (Heidi Hansen), Danny Pino (Larry Mora) and Nik Dodani (Jared Kalwani). Each one bringing special type of vulnerability that is welcomed and needed while communicating a tale this fragile. Especially Stenberg, Mora, Dever and Adams who break. you heart into a million pieces as they let themselves go in the most revealing way possible as artists and it is invigorating to watch.
What I love the most is the film consistently begs the question, did you ever feel like you would fall and no one hears you and could make you disappear. Everyone wants to matter and feel loved. In some instances, that love could easily become misdirected or misplaced. As an audience member, we see first hand how the tropes of social media can prop you up only to viciously tear you down for sport negating that there is a human being on the other side of the vitriol. The score is emotionally stirring with songs like “You Will Be Found” and “Words Fail.”
For me, Dear Evan Hansen is necessary art as it takes the band-aid off and tells the truth about the consequences of lying and the emotional void of never ending loss of those left behind when a life ceases to exist in their world. In this instance, words do not fail, they empower and heal.