Evan Hansen amazing, alright

Tony Award winning musical for teens

On January 15-26, Dear Evan Hansen came to Sacramento at the Memorial Auditorium. Based off of the book written by Steven Levenson and with music and lyrics written by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, the musical won six Tony Awards, including best musical.

The musical features a young boy named Evan Hansen who struggles with social anxiety. His therapist tells him to write letters to himself, and one of his letters is found in the pocket of Connor Murphy, a boy who gets into an argument with Evan and then commits suicide.

Connor’s parents believe that it was a suicide note, and Evan agrees that he was Connor’s secret best friend, even producing fake emails proving their friendship. Through the emails, Evan creates a fake personality for Connor that people can mourn, given that he didn’t have any close relationships with anybody while he was alive.

Evan continues to forge relationships that he had never had and make a name for himself after claiming to be best friends with Connor. Soon, everybody knows who he is, he’s dating his dream girl (Connor’s sister), and his social anxiety has vastly improved.

Though many critics call Dear Evan Hansen life-changing and heartfelt, I disagree. While the message of the musical is important–everyone matters, life gets better, etc.–it is displayed through terrible means.

Evan profits the whole musical by claiming to be the best friend of a suicide victim. He uses Connor’s death to keep himself popular and interesting. However, his selfish actions are seen as good at the end because, even though he lied, Connor’s family grew closer to each other.

Dear Evan Hansen tries to excuse dishonesty and selfishness by displaying a heartfelt message. Though it’s great that Evan worked through his anxiety, it doesn’t make it okay to use somebody else’s suicide and mental health issues to uplift yourself.

Being set in high school, Dear Evan Hansen attempted to portray the awkwardness and childishness of the environment. However, it was obviously exaggerated and very uncomfortable. The dialogue was stilted and made the characters unlikeable–though their speeches were supposed to come across as meaningful or funny, it ended up plain cringe-worthy.

The music alternated between amazing and alright. Though some of the songs were really good, it was often hard to enjoy them because of the events of the musical. For example, “For Forever” was a beautiful song, but it occurred while Evan was making up a story of an outing with Connor. Instead of appreciating the song, all I felt was mild disgust for Evan’s actions.

However, other songs such as “Requiem” and “Waving Through a Window” avoided these problems and greatly contributed to my enjoyment of the musical. Both beautifully performed, “Requiem” showed the struggle of Connor’s family in grieving his death and “Waving Through a Window” presented Evan’s struggle with his anxiety. If the rest of the songs were not as problematic, I’m sure I would have enjoyed them as much as these two.

All in all, Dear Evan Hansen was a nice try. Though a good effort toward addressing mental health issues, it missed the very important detail that people should not exploit others’ mental health issues for their own benefit.