Dear Evan Hansen, rose to fame on Broadway, with some viewers finding it via bootlegs on Youtube. Regardless, audiences have all been captivated by the music, the once in a lifetime talent of Ben Platt, and the story that motivated millions to keep going when life felt unbearable. The show that captivated audiences around the world is now a major motion picture which was released on September 24, 2021.
Dear Evan Hansen follows the tumultuous senior year of Evan Hansen, a young man isolated and crippled by anxiety. Evan’s therapist encourages him to write letters to himself, detailing how Evan will have a “great day.” Evan’s life drastically changes when his letter falls into the hands of a grieving couple who have lost their son to suicide.
The film adaptation begins with Evan singing “Waving Through A Window.” The viewer watches a now 28 year old Ben Platt re-enter the character he originated on Broadway. For staunch supporters of the musical, this beginning will be jarring. The Broadway musical version begins with the song “Does Anybody Have A Map?” The song sets a tone for the show by allowing the audience into the homes of the two families that the story follows. “Does Anybody Have A Map?” has been left out of the film adaptation all together. Amy Adams would have given us a beautiful rendition of the song. Beginning with “Waving Through A Window” will be confusing for anyone who is unfamiliar with the story. It felt like a dramatic Hollywood movie, losing the humble beginning that the audience is comfortable with.
This review would be incomplete without discussing the masterful performance of Ben Platt. As previously stated, Platt originated the role of Evan for Broadway nearly six years ago. Platt’s voice is incredible and he captures the emotion of the character flawlessly.
However, is he a believable high school senior? Of course not. Platt looks like a 28 year old who is struggling to graduate. As much as we all love Ben Platt, he may have missed “the window” of time where him playing the character is believable. The character of Evan would have benefited from a fresh, new performance. The creators of the film missed an opportunity to cast a new actor. Ben Platt is amazing, but he should pass this role on to someone new. That being said, audiences cannot wait to witness what is next from Platt.
A true standout in Dear Evan Hansen was Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy. Zoe is a tortured character, trying to mourn the death of her brother whom she believes never truly loved her. Dever’s performance was electric. The speeding car scene (not in the original version) was by far the most memorable of the entire film. Dever’s raw emotion was palpable, the entire theater went silent and simply lived the scene with her. Dever’s singing was impressive, but she was not the strongest vocalist to play Zoe Murphy.
Dear Evan Hansen missed the mark…slightly. We waited too long for the film adaptation. By the time it got here, we were expecting a film that would have been perfect in 2016. A younger, more relatable Ben Platt. The original broadway cast. Maybe it wasn’t made to be a Hollywood film. There is a vulnerability that comes with a live performance of this show that the actors couldn’t accurately portray on screen.
If you’re a fan of the musical, you should see the film. The “You Will Be Found” scene was beautiful. Listening to Ben Platt sing for two hours is enjoyable any way you can get it. Just remember, if you miss live theatre, you’re not alone. Because it’s the human connection that we miss most of all.