How to translate a drama about social anxiety, suicide, loneliness and the ever-challenging teenage years into a musical? Though no easy task, the brilliant adaptation from Steven Levenson’s book by the Grammy, Tony, and Academy Award® winners, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul accomplished the mission with flying colors, justifying a whopping nine Tony Award nominations, and winning six, including Best Book, Best Score, and the coveted Best Musical.
The resonant story about a young teenager who has to overcome his own social anxiety to go to high school and make new friends reminds us how life has different phases, each one demanding us to be strong and to learn how to navigate our insecurities. The show is replete with sensitive and memorable tunes that everyone can relate to, but the beautiful melody and soothing poetry of “You Will Be Found” lingers in our hearts long after we leave the theater: “Even when the dark comes crashing through, When you need a friend to carry you, And when you’re broken on the ground, You will be found.”
“(The musical) teaches us that when we step out of our comfort zones to help others, we ultimately end up helping ourselves.”
The character’s physical isolation and the role of technology and the internet to connect with others is skillfully portrayed on stage through several gigantic vertical panels mirroring their social media interactions, thanks to the direction by four-time Tony Award nominee, Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal), scenic design by David Korins, and projection design by Peter Nigrini. Anthony Norman’s sparkling performance as Evan Hansen (and that adorable smile!), the vibrant and talented Nikhil Saboo (as Connor Murphy), and the sweet but formidable voice of Alaina Anderson (as Zoe Murphy) are notable.
The musical reflects so many of our current struggles — raising a child in times of economic hardship, alienation in an age of social media, and also the over-dependence on pharmaceutical drugs to try to compensate for a lack of real connection. At times like these when we hear about school shootings every other day, it would be a great service to spread the word about this musical and have all teenagers see it because it teaches us that when we step out of our comfort zones to help others, we ultimately end up helping ourselves.
— Rosane Grimberg
Dear Evan Hansen plays at the Ahmanson Theatre through July 31st. Tickets HERE.