Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dear Evan Hansen

For some time now, the spouse has been trying to get lottery tickets to see Dear Evan Hansen. Well, yesterday it finally worked, and we were given the opportunity to buy overpriced standing-room-only tickets to the sold-out musical.

And was it worth it? Absolutely. The book by Steven Levenson (who also wrote If I Forget) is provocative, and the songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul can be infectious. I particularly liked the Act I closer, "You Will Be Found," which soars like an inspirational anthem even as we realize it's a complete lie.

It's the cynicism of Dear Evan Hansen that makes the play interesting. While much of the show's promotional materials have focused on how inspirational it can be, the title character is ultimately a fabulist caught in his own lies. Social media picks up on his untruths, but of course thinks they are genuine, and the absurd predictably goes viral.

The story is loosely based on something Pasek experienced in high school. A troubled teen named Connor (played wonderfully by Mike Faist), having a world of trouble and no real friends, commits suicide. Only he gains scores of virtual friends after his death, as high school students who never cared about him while he was alive jockey for position concerning who knew him best.

Dear Evan Hansen is a parable for the Facebook generation. Still, it goes beyond merely being "thoughtful" and "topical" to really probe the depths of its characters. If you're interested in learning more, check out the show's official website.