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Must-See: Broadway Bound Dear Evan Hansen, a Musical Made for Millennials

Must-See: Broadway Bound Dear Evan Hansen, a Musical Made for Millennials

Matthew Murphy

Put your phones away and watch.

Dear Evan Hansen might just be the perfect musical for millennials and those wanting to better understand the world they inhabit. The music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the team behind Off-Broadway's Dogfight, and Steven Levenson's book centers on Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), an unpopular high school kid who is desperate for attention from his peers and workaholic mom (Rachel Bay Jones). When a letter he writes is mistaken as a school bully's suicide note, Evan doesn't correct the misunderstanding, but instead fumbles into instantaneous, viral fame. Dear Evan Hansen is by no means a perfect show, but it strikes a new and important chord in theater, and above all else, proves relatable to young people.

Pasek and Paul deftly capture how easy it is for modern youth to feel like they don't fit in. In "Waving Through a Window," Michael Greif's direction and Danny Mefford's choreography reveal how an existential crisis is magnified by smart phones; the young cast tap on their devices' screens, while Evan sings, "Cause I'm tap-tap-tappin' on the glass, waving through a window." This level of detail is consistent throughout the production and is coupled with Platt's dead-on characterization of social awkwardness; he doesn't look the other actors in the eyes when speaking and he constantly keeping his hands and ankles moving with a pervasive nervous energy. Platt reveals how Evan is almost incapable of real human interaction.

Levenson's book profoundly unpacks the power of the digital experience in the real world, the differences between reality and the way we perceive it on social media, and the ramifications of widespread misinformation online. After the show, audiences of Dear Evan Hansen will be forced to deeply contemplate the consequences of our online lives. Who knows, maybe we'll put our phones down for the rest of the night.

Dear Evan Hansen's sold out Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theatre ended on May 29 and will be transfered to Broadway this fall. Preview performances are scheduled to begin in November at the Belasco Theater, with an opening night set for December 4, 2016. Tickets go on sale on June 19 and can be purchased at

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