Whether you’re looking to fall asleep to the gorgeous voices of Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss, to bawl your eyes out, to laugh your heart out, or to simply immerse yourself in a beautiful story of self-discovery and young love, Dear Evan Hansen has it all.
And if you’re looking to start your journey into musical theatre, I highly recommend starting with this.
Dear Evan Hansen doesn’t have extravagant sets, costumes, or choreographed dance numbers, but it has won, by its own merit, six Tony Awards in 2017, including Best New Musical.
The story speaks to teenagers in ways that almost no other musical does, reflecting on the imperfections of adolescence and the vulnerability of life. It also reaches parents who struggle to communicate with their teenagers.
This critically-acclaimed musical follows Evan Hansen, a 17-year-old boy who is diagnosed with social anxiety as he enters his senior year of high school.
Under immense pressure to fit in and belong, he makes questionable decisions, resulting in serious consequences that he must face.
The story makes it immediately clear that Evan is not just an “awkward” high school boy but someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, conditions prevalent among current teenagers. The musical tries to break down stigmas by starting discussions on suicide and mental illness.
However, Dear Evan Hansen is often charged with perpetuating stereotypes that those with mental illness are manipulative and selfish. It also conveys the notion that they don’t have to be accountable for their actions.
Critics point out that, throughout the story, Evan becomes increasingly self-absorbed and inconsiderate, though the show continues painting him in a positive light to garner the audience’s sympathy.
In addition, the depictions of mental illness are toxic; they maintain a belief that mental illness can be used as rationale for deception and emotional devastation inflicted upon others.
Thus, the show perpetuates the stereotypes of selfishness in those with mental illness, ignoring the fact that these people try their hardest every day to not let their mental illness dictate their actions and determine how they treat others.
However, these criticisms have not stopped Dear Evan Hansen from raising awareness on mental health.
The show has received thousands of emails, letters, and tweets from audience members around the world who felt compelled to share their stories and their appreciation for the musical.
To these fans, Dear Evan Hansen does a fantastic job at balancing heavier topics with light-hearted comedic relief.
Together, the emotionally soaring performances of the actors on stage, coupled with the rich and luxurious orchestrations of Alex Lacamoire (orchestrator of Hamilton), send the audience through a rollercoaster of laughter, dancing, and a whole lot of tears.