Sniff. I’m wrecked. In a good way. I’ve been crying my way through Dear Evan Hansen.
There are a lot of heartstrings being pulled here. It touches on some pretty universal themes: not fitting in, loneliness, acceptance, the bonds and conflicts between family members. It imbues them both with a unique spin which feels like it’s individual, and yet the broad strokes of the story – a small lie that turns into a big one, the speed of how stories and emotions play out in social media – almost feel operatic.
The story, of course, is held together by the extraordinary performance of Ben Platt in the lead role: charming, vulnerable and quirky, yet the supporting cast are also amazing. With a few hours of retrospection (and reminded of this article in the NYT about Ben Platt), there’s just this amazing vulnerability and relatability about Platt’s creation of Evan Hansen. I felt like crying and hugging him, and yet, I cried for all the parts of me that have felt like this character: out of place, tapping on the window to be let in, sad and awkward. This is not like a regular musical where a character transforms into from awkward Elphaba in Wicked to the powerful Elphaba… Evan Hansen is as vulnerable at the end of the show as at the start, and his problems aren’t solved; he’s just further along his journey and his gift, his beauty, is how his heart is cracked open but continues to beat.
Meanwhile, I love the pop-Broadway sensibility of the score. It just goes right into my heart. A few of the songs, for me, are worth the price of admission already: Waving through a Window and Words Fail. The Broadway trick of singing about one thing (a baseball glove) to talk about something else (perseverance) works perfectly in this show (for an example of the opposite, see song about figs from Amelie). Similarly, I’d heard about the show-stopping So Big / So Small sung by Evan’s mom, and assumed it would be a directly emotional mom to son song, so was impressed with the storytelling of it. I sat next to a row of weeping mothers (and I was too). Sadly, one of the big numbers, You Will Be Found, is kind of exactly like Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn (try it out, you can hum it all the way through the song). But that’s a minor quibble.
I was so happy to be able to see this show.
How it came about is worth a small story. We did try a week or two to check out the standing room only tickets (they go on sale at 10am) but it seems like the only ones available go to people who have been waiting for MANY hours beforehand (at least from 6am I think). I’d heard about the queue for cancellations, and to wait a few hours before the show opens, but I couldn’t exactly figure out what to do. I went by on a Wednesday morning at 10:30am. Saw a queue, which I assumed was for cancellations. Waited for a while, not quite knowing what to do, and then a fellow who had won tickets in the lottery was trying to sell off one of his pair. Front row, all the way to the side. Yes, the view was a bit restricted but we got a booster cushion from the usher which worked fine. Sometimes the actors were singing away from us, but I really loved being so close to see the actors’ expressions. $200. Well worth it, I’d say, since the only available tickets that I’ve seen online lately have between $285 and $500. Hurrah. Where there’s a will?