I didn’t know how I would feel about ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ before seeing it. I know everyone and their mothers have been raving about it, but what I have heard of the score I wasn’t impressed by – that Jason Robert Brown style of modern theater music is a genre I have never embraced, although I do get it, and I do get why so many people – mostly younger Broadway fans – embrace that style. And will i be able to relate to this? Am I too old for this?
It turns out that I am not, since I liked the show a lot. It tells the story of Evan (Ben Platt) a socially awkward teenager who is unexpectedly caught in a suicide of an acquaintance, with his therapy assignment being mistaken for the other teenager’s suicide note. He plays along with it, even inventing imaginary emails between the two of them. It is kind of a take on the catfish story line set in this era of viral videos and social media postings (superimposed in the background)
Justin Paul and Benj Pasek wrote the songs here, and at first listen, to my eyes, they do kind of all sound the same, but that may be just my prejudice running rampant – these songs are tuneful, and a lot of them will stick in your head. Well, maybe not as well as Jerry Herman tune, but you get the drift. The oldie in me would really rather play ‘Dear World’ than ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ of course, but I gotta say, I kind of dig the songs here after assimilating myself to it. And of course it helps that they are mostly sung by Ben Platt, who has Evan makes a star-making performance (Clear a space on your mantel for your Tony, Ben) who digs into these songs with gusto you cannot help but feel embroiled in Evan’s turmoils and triumphs. In the end, though, this may be one of the shows I admire more, and while I certainly appreciate it a lot, ultimately I just did not connect to it as much as I am sure others do. It’s not you, it’s me, I always say, as probably one of the few people in the world who hated Rent, speaking of Michael Greif, who directed both productions. I have never ever been a fan of rock or pop musicals, and I don’t think I will start here.