Audiences everywhere have had the chance to witness the beauty of Broadway shows come to life on the big screen amidst the pandemic. Since the closure of Broadway, musical lovers have had the opportunity to see a wide variety of their favorite shows from home and at the movie theatre, including “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” is no different than its Broadway-to-film predecessors, regardless of the criticism it has received since the first trailer.
Some fans of the franchise argue that the lead role should have gone to a younger actor, since 28-year-old Ben Platt is portraying a 17-year-old Evan Hansen. In response to the critiques, Platt took to social media to clap back at the negative feedback and address the situation. However, Platt’s attempt at defense added more flame to the fire for Platt as it illuminated the fact that his father, Marc Platt, is a producer for the film.
This caused comments suggesting the reason he got the role was simply because his father worked on the film. Despite the noteworthy backlash, Platt is not the first nor last actor cast to play a younger role. In fact, actors are often cast to play minors because hiring young actors is typically expensive. For example, a set often has to hire a studio teacher for a project involving minors so that they are able to do school in between takes, which is not cost efficient for many productions.
Platt brought the character of Hansen to life on Broadway as part of the original cast. Many fans think of him as being synonymous with the role, and couldn’t imagine any other actor bringing him to life on the big screen.
Many familiar tunes from the original show were reprised by Platt in the movie; however, some fan favorites did not make a comeback.
The removal of “Anybody Have a Map?” in the beginning of the movie particularly stood out, since it would have shown the viewpoints of Cynthia Murphy, Connor Murphy’s mother, and Heidi Hansen, Hansen’s mother, in the beginning of the story. The song was replaced by “Waving Through a Window”, illustrating Hansen’s point of view instead. This changed the dynamic of the story entirely. The point of the original song was to provide a good introduction and focus on the lack of connection between the parents and their children. Instead, the new song focused on the perspective of the main character throughout the film until the middle of the movie where alternate viewpoints just barely started to be addressed.
These alternate viewpoints were addressed with songs from the original score, as well as some new numbers. Even though the film excluded some great songs, they added songs that furthered the plot and highlighted the theme of the movie: no one is alone and everyone has struggles. The two new songs also gave viewers more insight into the lives of the characters and their internal struggles. Alana Beck, played by Amandla Stenberg, for example sings the new song, “The Anonymous Ones”, depicts an outgoing girl who fights anxiety and depression and is trying to mask what she is going through.
This story relates to society’s everyday struggles and the internal dialogues that make us feel isolated. It provokes people to think about how there are others out there struggling with these feelings, and reminds us that no one is truly alone.
Apart from the heavy topics and emotional songs in the movie, there are hilarious moments. These scenes are mainly spurred by the comedic relief character Jared Kleinman.
Kleinman’s character, played by Nik Dodani, is as comedic as he is mischievous. He helps Hansen write emails pretending to be Murphy, the character played by Colton Ryan, who took his own life right before the story starts. The emails were to pretend that Hansen and Murphy were friends.
This lie that Murphy and Hansen were friends perpetuates throughout most of the film, causing an emotional roller coaster. Hansen gets caught in this lie when Murphy’s parents find a note after the death of their son, addressed “Dear Evan Hansen.” Interestingly enough, shortly before this tragic suicide happens, Murphy is shown stealing that letter from Hansen and pushing him to the ground in a rage. Hansen had to write these notes to himself per his therapist’s request to help him cope with his anxiety and depression.
Connor thought the note was creepy and yelled at Hansen, ultimately pushing him to the ground and keeping his letter. Murphy barely even knew Hansen but he still took his letter and read it without permission. While he read it, he paid special attention to the mention of the name Zoe Murphy, who was Hansen’s crush and Murphy’s sister. When Murphy’s parents find this note thinking it is a suicide letter, they confront Hansen, where he decided to lie in the conversation rather than telling them it was his letter. He tried to tell them in the moment,, but was held back by the weirdness of the situation and his own embarrassment.
Any more details would give away big spoilers, but overall the movie is an emotional journey worth seeing—one that will require lots of tissues. Prepare to laugh, cry, be anxious and sing along, like for any other musical-turned-movie.
Madison Wanco can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.