Photo By: Noah Nickel via IMDB
Having first premiered on Broadway in 2016, Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of a socially anxious teenager who gets tangled up in a lie that quickly spirals out of control.
When Evan’s classmate Connor takes his own life, a series of events unfold which lead Connor’s family to believe they were best friends. Given the circumstances, Evan chooses not to come clean and instead uses his “friendship” with Connor to raise awareness about mental illness and conveniently improve his social standing. The film explores themes of friendship, family, grief, mental illness and financial hardship.
Bringing theatre to the big screen is no easy feat, but Dear Evan Hansen does a good job honouring the original Broadway script while introducing a little something extra for long-standing fans.
One of the most powerful scenes features a conversation between Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) and Alana Beck (Amandla Stenberg) where Hansen says, “you don’t act like a depressed person.” The conversation between these two shines light on the idea that mental illness doesn’t have to look a certain way, and that people who are struggling don’t always look like they are.
The film adaptation was heavily criticized for casting Platt — at age 28 — as the titular character, who is supposed to be a high school senior. Producers defended this choice, as Platt played this role in the original Broadway production and his strong vocal performances were largely responsible for the show’s success.
However, one can’t help but think this may also have something to do with the film’s executive producer: Marc Platt, Ben’s father. While Platt is an extremely talented actor, the hair and makeup department may have gone a little too far in their attempt to make him look younger. He still delivers a remarkable performance, but his makeup is extremely noticeable and draws more attention to his age instead of less.
They might still have gotten away with it, had the rest of the cast also been a bit older. However, the rest of his classmates were played by actors in their early twenties, which only made Platt feel more out of place.
The 2021 film adaptation stays true to the musical for the most part, but strays significantly from the original soundtrack. Some fan favourites including: “Anybody Have a Map,” “Disappear,” and “To Break in a Glove,” were cut, but the film introduced two new songs which fit seamlessly into the script. The movie soundtrack features notable performances from Platt, Stenberg, as well as Julianne Moore who plays Heidi Hansen. One of the best performances however comes from the Murphy family, in their rendition of “No Requiem”. The song highlights how Connor’s mom, played by Amy Adams, his step-dad portrayed by Danny Pino and his sister played by Kaitlyn Dever all grieve Connor’s death differently.
Overall, Dear Evan Hansen paints a powerful picture of the teenage experience and what it can be like to be at war with your own mind. With a star-studded cast and beautiful musical numbers, it is sure to be a hit amongst not just Broadway fanatics, but those who are new to the story as well.