Bringing Broadway to the big screen has been sketchy at best. Only a few times have filmmakers been able to translate the open dark stage to the bright lights of Hollywood. Chicago, West Side Story, and Oklahoma, just to name a few. So how well does Stephen Chbosky do with the Tony-award winning Dear Evan Hansen? Not bad, better than most, in fact.
I’ve never seen the musical on stage, and my kid got me to listen to the cast album once. But, talking to my musical-obsessed friends, they all gave me a mediocre reception for the stage play. So with exceptions thoroughly set, let’s go over the story real quick.
Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) is a loner in high school, but not as bad as the bullied Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan). To deal with his loneliness, Evan’s therapist encourages him to write a letter to himself each morning. This morning, Connor grabs Evan’s letter off the printer. Later, he commits suicide with Evan’s letter in hand.
“…Evan makes up stories of their friendship, and like in all good musicals, the lies continue.”
Thinking that Evan and Connor were best friends, Connor’s parents, Cynthia and Larry (Amy Adams and Danny Pino), let Evan know of Connor’s suicide and, since they were best friends, want to hear stories of Connor from Evan. Under tremendous pressure, Evan makes up stories of their friendship, and like in all good musicals, the lies continue. Evan immediately digs himself into a very massive hole involving his crush, Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), and the creation of a memorial in Connor’s honor with Alana (Amanda Steinberg).
I liked Dear Evan Hansen. I absolutely can not compare it to the Broadway play, so I won’t even try. But, I’ll say that this works on the big screen, and the musical’s book writer, Steven Levenson, brilliantly brings his play to the big screen. The songs are all pretty much ballads by The Greatest Showman duo, Justin Paul and Dan Romer. There are no big dance numbers, and the opening song called “Waving Through A Window” is sung looking out a window. My point is that the musical and its songs lend themselves to the up-close intimacy that cinema provides and that other musicals, like Into The Woods, could not pull off.
"…works on the big screen..."