Although “Dear Evan Hansen” (DEH) the movie has caught a lot of heat from critics as it hit the big screen last week, it would be a shame if that turned people away from seeing the show on Broadway. Though I am partial, as I’ve seen the show an embarrassing six times (with a seventh date scheduled for December), I’d like to explain why I believe this show is so moving.

I first saw DEH over the summer of 2018, before I came to Fairfield for my freshman year. My mom got my sister and I tickets so the three of us could share a special experience before starting a new chapter of our lives.

I’ve always been a fan of Broadway, and I had never heard of this show before, but nonetheless I was rather optimistic going into it. When we walked into The Music Box Theatre for the first time, I was overcome by it’s intimate size and undeniable charm. We filed into the large auditorium and made our way to our seats. 

The stage was surprisingly small, and projected on large screens were tweets written about the show. New tweets and messages popped up every second, prompted by the overwhelming sound of cell phone notifications. The ‘pings’ and ‘rings’ got louder and louder until they all ceased at once, and I heard Taylor Trensch’s voice break the silence from the stage. “Dear Evan Hansen…” he said, “today is going to be a good day, and here is why…”

That first line is what drew me in. As the show progressed, I watched as the character that was Evan developed from the anxiously awkward teenager who starred in act one to an equally awkward, but more confident kid in act two. I identified with Evan’s anxiety, coping for years with the same sort of attacks that Trensch portrayed so well in front of the audience. I related to Evan’s all-consuming need to please the people around him, without considering if that might hurt people down the line. 

Fortunately, as I’ve grown, I have gotten exponentially more aware of these consequences, but when I was Evan’s age, I dealt with very similar struggles that he did as a result of my own lack of maturity and understanding of mental health.

As I navigated through my first few months away from home at school, I had a lot of trouble adjusting. My mom would send me lyrics from the DEH soundtrack daily, encouraging me to keep going, through roommate drama and the high academic stress. We bonded over memorizing every line, and constantly sent screenshots back and forth of our Spotify homepages to compare which songs we listened to. “Today is going to be a good day, because you’re you, and that’s enough,” she would regularly text me.

Though Dear Evan Hansen is primarily about its namesake’s character arc, this development would not have been prompted had he not been touched so profoundly by someone from his school who had died by suicide. This heavy subject laced the storyline, and was represented with a perfect balance of seriousness and lightheartedness. It sounds unusual that humor would be employed in telling a story like this, but that August I had no idea how important this aspect would be to me just five months later.

For Christmas that year, I surprised my mom with tickets to our second show that following January, in 2019. This was the most money I had ever spent on a holiday gift before, and I was ecstatic to be able to return the favor and take my mom back to our favorite show. Just two weeks after our families celebrated Christmas together, we were devastated by news that my dear friend for over 13 years had taken his own life. Our tickets were for the day after his services.

I wanted to return the tickets. I thought that I couldn’t possibly watch the show again and smile; I thought I would never smile again. My mom told me that she would be okay with selling the tickets, and doing something else instead, but deep down I felt like it could be a step in healing. With my mom by my side, and many tears in our eyes, we took our same journey to Midtown Manhattan and sat for the show. 

Since that day, I have felt the most amount of comfort going to see that show live. It reminds me of who I was that first summer, seeing it for the first time, and it helps me reflect on how far I’ve come and how I’ve changed. Each time I see the show, I feel stronger than I had the time before. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to experience the magic of DEH with my mom by my side, and I already am counting down the days until the next time we do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.