Dear Evan Hansen is a musical with music and lyrics by Pasek and Paul, and a book by Steven Levenson.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December 2016, after its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, in July 2015 and an Off-Broadway production in March to May 2016.
The title character, Evan Hansen, is a high school senior with a social anxiety disorder who finds himself amid the turmoil that follows a classmate's death.
The musical has received critical acclaim, particularly for Ben Platt's leading performance, the lyrics, and the book, and has served as a touchstone for discussion about pre-mature storytelling and themes explored in musical theatre, particularly that of mental illness. At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Actor in a Musical for Platt.
The musical has its origins in an incident that took place during Pasek's high school years. The musical "takes the notion of a teenager, ... Evan Hansen, who invents an important role for himself in a tragedy that he did not earn."
Evan Hansen, a teenager who struggles with severe social anxiety, writes a hopeful letter to himself as an assignment from his therapist before the first day of his senior year. His mother, Heidi, a busy nurse's aide who is studying to be a paralegal at night, attempts to connect with Evan, but struggles to find common ground with him. She tells him to make new friends by asking people to sign the cast on his arm, which he had broken by falling out of a large tree over the summer.
Across town, the wealthy Murphy family—Cynthia, Larry, and their children Zoe and Connor sit down to breakfast. Zoe and Larry berate Connor for getting high before school, while Cynthia struggles with the fact that her family is falling apart. The two mothers wonder simultaneously how to connect with their sons ("Anybody Have A Map?").
At school, Evan runs into Alana, an ambitious student obsessed with getting into a good college, and Jared, the son of a family friend and the closest thing Evan has to an actual friend. Both Alana and Jared notice his broken arm, but neither one takes Evan up on his offer to sign his cast. Evan has a physical altercation with Connor, prompting Zoe, Evan's longtime crush, to apologize on her brother's behalf. Evan wonders if this is his destiny – to never get the girl of his dreams, to be ignored, and to be an outcast for the rest of his life ("Waving Through A Window").
Evan writes himself another letter, this time about how he's given up on it being a good year and how he wonders if anyone would notice if he wasn't there. He remarks that all his hope is now pinned on Zoe, even though he doesn't know her. While printing out the letter in the school's computer lab, he once again runs into Connor, who is more subdued than he was that morning. He offers to sign Evan's cast, musing that maybe now they can both pretend they have friends. After signing the cast, he reads Evan's letter and becomes furious at the mention of Zoe, thinking Evan intended for him to see the letter in order to hurt him. He storms out, taking the letter with him.
Several days pass with no sign of Connor or Evan's letter, leaving Evan in an intense state of anxiety over what Connor might have done with it. That day, he is called to the principal's office, where Connor's parents are waiting to meet him. They tell Evan that Connor had died by suicide a few days before, with Evan's letter in his pocket. Believing it to be Connor's suicide note, addressed to Evan, they ask Evan if he and Connor were close, as Connor had never mentioned having friends before. Evan attempts to explain but becomes overwhelmed, panicking. Not wanting to further their grief and trying to find a way out of the situation, Evan agrees to go to their house to talk about Connor. He confides all this in Jared, who advises him to just "nod and confirm". Instead, Evan begins to fabricate an intricate story of his and Connor's friendship after seeing how distraught Cynthia is over the loss of her son. Evan claims that he and Connor kept up a secret email correspondence, and tells them a fictional version of the day he broke his arm in which Connor was with him the entire day ("For Forever"). Later, Heidi reminds Evan that he needs to begin applying for college scholarships, but Evan is too distracted by his fabricated friendship with Connor to take her very seriously. She mentions hearing about Connor's death, but Evan tells her not to worry, that he didn't know Connor. Heidi confronts Evan after seeing Connor's name signed on his cast, but he lies by saying that someone else named Connor signed his cast. After realizing he needs evidence of his supposed "secret email account", Evan enlists Jared's help in creating fake, backdated email conversations ("Sincerely, Me").
After Evan shows the Murphys Connor's "emails", Cynthia is ecstatic that her son had a friend and asks to see more of the emails, but Larry is more hurt that Connor took his family and his privileged life for granted. Zoe, who was never close to Connor, refuses to mourn him because she truly does not miss her brother because of his abusive behavior towards her ("Requiem"). However, after Evan shows her the "suicide note", Zoe notices that she is mentioned and asks Evan if Connor ever spoke about her. Evan, unable to tell her the truth, tells her all the reasons he loves her, but pretends that Connor said them ("If I Could Tell Her"). Overcome with emotion, he impulsively kisses Zoe, but she throws him out.
Evan notices that people are starting to forget about Connor, and wants to prevent what happened to him from happening to anyone else. Spurred on by his imaginary version of Connor, Evan enlists Alana and Jared's help in founding "The Connor Project", an organization dedicated to keeping Connor's memory alive and helping those like him. The three pitch the idea to the Murphys, who agree to support the project ("Disappear"). At the official launch of the Connor Project, Evan gives an inspiring speech about his loneliness and friendship with Connor, which goes viral after it is posted online. Zoe, overcome by the impact her brother and Evan have had on people, kisses him ("You Will Be Found").
Evan and Alana pitch a fund-raising idea on The Connor Project's website. In memory of Connor, they want to raise $50,000 in three weeks to reopen the abandoned apple orchard that Evan and Connor supposedly spent time in. Evan, spurred on by his new relationship with Zoe, and his newfound family in the Murphys, begins to neglect his mother, Jared, and the Connor Project.
Heidi tells Evan that she saw the video of his speech on Facebook, and asks him why he didn't tell her about the Connor Project or about his and Connor's friendship. He angrily responds that he didn't have the time because she's never around. He then rushes off to the Murphys', telling her that he's going to Jared's. At the Murphys', Evan bonds with Larry, and confides in him that his father left when he was young, has remarried, and no longer keeps in touch with him or Heidi ("To Break in a Glove"). Sometime later, at Evan's house, Evan makes an offhand comment to Zoe about how he and his mother don't have much money and he needs the scholarships to pay for college. When he begins to mention Connor, Zoe tells him that she doesn't want their relationship to be about Connor, but about the two of them ("Only Us").
Evan gets in a fight with Jared who claims that Connor's death was the best thing that ever happened to Evan – he is no longer invisible, and has landed the girl of his dreams. Later on, Evan goes to the Murphys' only to discover that Zoe had invited Heidi for dinner. Heidi who had no idea that Evan had spent time at the Murphys' is mortified when Larry and Cynthia offer to use the money that they had set aside for Connor's college fund to send Evan to school instead. After returning home, Heidi and Evan fight over his secrecy. When Heidi protests that the Murphys are not Evan's family, Evan confesses that he feels not only welcomed, but accepted by the Murphys in light of Heidi's absence and expectations towards Evan's mental health. Heidi tearfully berates him for running off to his shiny new family while Alana begins to find inconsistencies in the fake emails Evan "received" from Connor and suspect that the entire story has been a lie. Beginning to panic, Evan urges Jared to help him clear up the inaccuracies, but Jared refuses due to Evan's own absence. Evan counters that Jared himself had acted as a friend to him when he needed him. Jared threatens to expose Evan, and Evan warns him he could in turn open up about Jared's role. All three converge in Evan's conscience, compounding his guilt and doubt over his decisions. ("Good For You").
Evan decides he has to come clean with what he's done. Imaginary Connor attempts to talk him out of it citing the happiness he has given the Murphys and the fate of Evan's relationship with Zoe, but Evan does not back down, angrily shouting he needs the whole thing to be over. Connor is unconvinced and asks Evan how he broke his arm: did he fall by accident or actually let go? Evan denies intent, but Connor tells him that if he tells the truth, all he has will be gone, and the only thing he will be left with is himself. He disappears leaving Evan alone.
Evan is distraught and goes to see the Murphys, who have become the targets of hateful comments from people that believe they were responsible for Connor's death. He walks in on the three of them fighting about why Connor really killed himself and finally admits that he fabricated the entire thing, hopeful that he could forge a genuine bond with the Murphys out of the tragedy. As Zoe and her mother tearfully run out, Larry turns away from Evan in disgust. Alone once more, Evan absorbs his perceived brokenness as inescapable. ("Words Fail").
Evan finds Heidi waiting for him at home, who saw the letter online, immediately knowing that it was one of Evan's therapy assignments. She apologizes to Evan for not seeing how badly he had been hurting. Evan says that it wasn't her fault, he lied to her about so much. He then vaguely admits that his fall had been a suicide attempt. Heidi sits him down and recalls the day that his father moved out: how she felt so small and alone, and didn't know how she was going to make it by herself. In the end, however, she realized that she wasn't alone – she had Evan and knew that the two of them could make it through anything as long as they were together. Tearfully, Heidi promises that she'll always be there for him when he needs her ("So Big/So Small").
A year later, Evan is still living at home and working at Pottery Barn to save enough money to go to college the next semester. He contacts Zoe, whom he has not seen since she found out the truth, asking if she will agree to meet him. She does but insists that they meet at the orchard that has been reopened in Connor's memory. He apologizes for the pain he caused her family and admits that he has been reading Connor's ten favorite books after finding a list in an old yearbook in an attempt to connect with who he really was. He also thanks her and her parents for keeping his secret and revealing that they never told anyone else that his friendship with Connor was a lie. She forgives him saying the whole ordeal brought her family closer together over the past year because "everyone needed it for something." Evan asks her why she insisted on meeting at the orchard, and she replies that she wanted to be sure he saw it, and the two share a gentle moment before they awkwardly part. Evan mentally writes himself one last letter reflecting on the impact he's had on his community and questions what is to come next ("Finale").
Roles and principal casts
Roles and original cast
Off-Broadway cast replacements
Alana Beck: Kristolyn Lloyd
Broadway cast replacements
Evan Hansen: Noah Galvin; Taylor Trensch
Evan Hansen (on Wednesday and Saturday matinees) Michael Lee Brown
Connor Murphy, Jared Kleinman and Evan Hansen: Colton Ryan, Michael Lee Brown, Ben Ross
Heidi Hansen/Cynthia Murphy: Garrett Long
Zoe Murphy/Alana Beck: Olivia Puckett
Larry Murphy: Asa Somers
Jared Kleinman: Nick Sacks
Evan Hansen – A high school senior who struggles with social anxiety disorder. He is assigned by his therapist to write letters to himself about why each day will be good, which becomes the catalyst for the plot of the story. He also has never had any friends, and has had a crush on Zoe Murphy for a very long time. After Connor's death, he begins to tell lies of him being friends with Connor to the Murphy family because they found Evan's letter to himself folded up in Connor's pocket; they thought Connor wrote it to Evan.
Heidi Hansen – Evan's mother, a nurse's aide who attends paralegal school at night, often leaving Evan on his own as a result. She tries to connect with Evan, but struggles because she doesn't personally understand what he goes through on a daily basis.
Zoe Murphy – Connor's younger sister and Evan's longtime crush. She was never close to Connor, hated him even, but wishes she had known him better and turns to Evan after he lies and says he was friends with Connor. She doesn't get mad at Evan, but rather accepts him, after the truth is revealed.
Connor Murphy – A high school senior who is also a social outcast with no friends, just like Evan. He is a frequent drug user, and becomes verbally abusive to his family when he is high. However, he is protective of Zoe, even though he is not close with her.
Cynthia Murphy – Connor and Zoe's stay-at-home mother. She is constantly trying to keep her fragile family from falling apart, but is often unsuccessful. She clings to the memory of Connor even though she was never close with him, and her relationship with Larry and Zoe suffers because of it.
Larry Murphy – Connor and Zoe's busy father. He works hard to give his family a relatively easy life, but he is emotionally distant from all three of them. He becomes close with Evan, who never had a strong father figure, and begins to see Evan as the son Connor never was.
Alana Beck – Evan's precocious and sometimes insufferable classmate. She is constantly looking for academic and extracurricular activities to boost her college résumé. She never knew Connor, but is greatly affected by his death and quickly joins Evan in founding the Connor Project in order to keep Connor's memory alive.
Jared Kleinman – Another of Evan's classmates; he is the closest thing Evan has ever had to a friend. The son of a family friend of the Hansens, he initially only talks to Evan so that his parents will pay for his car insurance. Evan enlists his help in crafting fake emails from Connor, and slowly becomes a true friend to him.
**Not included on the Original Broadway Cast Recording
An original Broadway cast album was released at midnight on February 3, 2017. The second song on the album, "Waving Through a Window", was released as a special early download for those who pre-ordered the album. The fifth song, "Requiem", was made available to stream for 24 hours on January 26, 2017, a week before the release of the cast recording. The song was released as a second pre-order bonus the next day. The recording of the Act 1 finale "You Will Be Found" was available for a first listen online on January 30, 2017. The cast album debuted at number 8 on the February 25 Billboard 200. The cast album became available in compact disc format on February 24, 2017.
Washington, D.C. (2015)
Dear Evan Hansen premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., running from July 10 to August 23, 2015. Directed by Michael Greif, with orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, the set was designed by David Korins and the projection design was by Peter Nigrini. The cast featured Ben Platt in the title role.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre on March 26, 2016, in previews, with the official opening on May 1. The cast featured Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Will Roland and Jennifer Laura Thompson repeating their roles from the Arena Stage production. New cast members were John Dossett and Kristolyn Lloyd. Michael Greif again directed, with choreography by Danny Mefford. The Off-Broadway engagement closed on May 29, 2016.
The show premiered on Broadway on November 14, 2016, in previews, and officially opened on December 4. After originally announcing that performances would take place at the Belasco Theatre, in mid-September 2016, producers announced that the show would instead be performed at the Music Box Theatre. Michael Park, who originated the role of Larry in the Arena Stage production, returned for the Broadway production (replacing John Dossett who went on to the musical War Paint). All other cast members from the Second Stage production returned for the Broadway engagement.
A U.S. Tour was announced, starting in Denver in October 2018.
Derek Mong, in his review of the musical at the Arena Stage, wrote that the "inventive set design by David Korins...that transforms a small stage into a platform for the most intimate living room where a mother and son share a heart-to-heart to the physical abyss of internet cyberspace... book by Steven Levenson... lyrics and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul... heartfelt lyrics with universal appeal joined by the perfect, oftentimes acoustic, accompaniment that can change the mood from somber to celebratory to sinister in a single bar of music."
Barbara Mackay in reviewing the Arena Stage production for TheatreMania wrote: "Levenson, Pasek, and Paul set themselves two high, untraditional bars in Evan Hansen: exploring a community's grief and examining a lonely protagonist who desperately wants to connect with that community... Ben Platt is outstanding as Evan... Since the success of the musical depends entirely on whether Evan's solitary nature appears funny or weird, Evan's ability to laugh at himself and make the audience laugh is crucial. Platt is charming as he eternally twists his shirt tails and hangs his head... Although the themes of grief and loneliness are serious, the musical is anything but somber. It addresses challenging facts of life. But from start to finish, when Evan leaves his room and finds an authentic life outside it, Dear Evan Hansen contains far more joy than sadness."
Susan Davidson, in her review of the Arena Stage production for CurtainUp, noted: "...it helps to suspend the disbelief that sullen, anti-social teenagers can change quickly. Surely that's a process requiring time-released hormonal adjustments. It is hard to accept that a long-admired-from-afar girl can change Evan's outlook on life so rapidly or that Connor's teenage disequilibrium leads him to do what he does. Coming through loud and clear, however, is the fact that what starts as deceit can be blown totally out of proportion by the Internet where lies are disseminated with lightning speed leaving plenty of victims in their wake...The music is pleasant, not terribly original but good enough to get toes tapping. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's ballads stand out, particularly Heidi's "So Big/So Small," Evan's "Words Fail" and Zoe and Evan's young sweethearts duet "Only Us.""
Charles Isherwood, in his review of the Second Stage production for The New York Times, noted: "The songs, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight, A Christmas Story), strike the same complex notes, with shapely, heartfelt lyrics that expose the tensions and conflicts that Connor's death and Evan's involvement cause in both families. The music, played by a small but excellent band on a platform upstage, is appealingly unstrident pop-rock, with generous doses of acoustic guitar, keyboards and strings. It's the finest, most emotionally resonant score yet from this promising young songwriting team."
Dear Evan Hansen is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.
Honors and awards
Original Washington, D.C. production
Original Off-Broadway production
Original Broadway production
Off-Broadway Internet Database
Broadway Internet Database
Dear Evan Hansen Official Website