The musical opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December 2016, after its world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, in July 2015 and an Off-Broadway production in March to May 2016.
The titular character, Evan Hansen, is a high school senior who suffers from social anxiety disorder, which inhibits his ability to connect with other people and make friends. After the death of one of his classmates, he fabricates a lie that inadvertently brings him closer to the classmate's family, while also allowing him to gain his own sense of purpose.
The musical has received critical acclaim, particularly for Ben Platt's leading performance, the lyrics, and the book, and has served as a touchstone for discussion about pre-mature storytelling and themes explored in musical theatre, particularly that of mental illness. At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical for Platt, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Rachel Bay Jones.
The musical has its origins in an incident that took place during Pasek's high school years. The musical "takes the notion of a teenager, ... Evan Hansen, who invents an important role for himself in a tragedy that he did not earn."
Evan Hansen is a teenager who struggles with severe social anxiety. His therapist recommends that he write letters to himself detailing what will be good about each day. His mother Heidi suggests that he make new friends by asking people to sign the cast on his arm, which he broke by falling out of a tree over the summer.
Across town, the wealthy Murphy family — Cynthia, Larry, and their children Zoe and Connor — sit down to breakfast. Zoe and Larry berate Connor for getting high before school, while Cynthia struggles with the fact that her family is falling apart. The two mothers wonder simultaneously how to connect with their sons ("Anybody Have a Map?").
At school, Evan runs into Alana and Jared, the son of a family friend and the closest thing Evan has to an actual friend. Both Alana and Jared notice his broken arm, but neither signs his cast. Jared and Evan then encounter Connor, whom Jared teases, leading to a physical altercation between Evan and Connor. Connor's sister Zoe, who Evan has a crush on, feels obligated to apologize for her brother's behavior. Evan wonders if this is his destiny – never to get the girl of his dreams, to be ignored, and to be an outcast, "on the outside always looking in" for the rest of his life ("Waving Through A Window").
Evan writes himself another letter. He states he has given up on it being a good year and how he wonders if anyone would notice if he were not there. He remarks that all his hope is now pinned on Zoe. While printing the letter in the school's computer lab, he encounters Connor again. Connor offers to sign Evan's cast, musing that maybe now they can both pretend they have friends. After signing the cast, he reads Evan's letter and becomes furious at the mention of Zoe, thinking Evan intended for him to see the letter in order to make fun of him. He storms out, taking the letter with him.
Several days pass with no sign of Connor. Evan is in an intense state of anxiety over what Connor might have done with the letter. Later that day, Evan is called to the principal's office, where Connor's parents are waiting to meet him. They tell Evan that Connor died by suicide a few days before with Evan's letter in his pocket. Believing it to be Connor's suicide note addressed to Evan, they ask Evan if he and Connor were close, as Connor had never mentioned having friends before. Not wanting to further their grief and trying to find a way out of the situation, Evan agrees to go to their house to talk about Connor. Evan begins to fabricate an intricate story of his and Connor's friendship after seeing how distraught Cynthia is over the loss of her son. Evan claims that he and Connor kept up a secret email correspondence and recounts a fictional version of the day he broke his arm in which Connor was with him the entire day ("For Forever"). Later, Heidi reminds Evan that he needs to begin applying for college scholarships. She mentions hearing about Connor's death, but Evan tells her not to worry and that he did not know Connor. Seeing Connor's name signed on his cast, Heidi confronts Evan, but he lies, saying that someone else named Connor signed it. After realizing he needs evidence of his supposed "secret email account," Evan enlists Jared's help in creating fake, backdated email conversations ("Sincerely, Me").
After Evan shows the Murphys Connor's "emails," Cynthia is ecstatic that her son had a friend, but Larry is more hurt that Connor took his family and his privileged life for granted. Zoe, who was never close to Connor, refuses to mourn him because of his aggressive behaviour ("Requiem"). However, after Evan shows her the "suicide note," Zoe notices that she is mentioned and asks Evan if he and Connor ever spoke about her. Evan, unable to tell her the truth, tells her all the reasons he loves her, pretending that Connor said them ("If I Could Tell Her"). Overcome with emotion, he impulsively kisses Zoe, but she pulls away and tells him to leave.
At school, Evan notices that people are starting to forget about Connor. Spurred on by his imaginary version of Connor, Evan enlists Alana and Jared's help in founding "The Connor Project" — an organization dedicated to keeping Connor's memory alive. The three pitch the idea to the Murphys, who agree to support the project ("Disappear"). Moved by his dedication, Cynthia asks Evan to speak at Connor's memorial service, and he hesitantly accepts. At the official launch of The Connor Project, Evan gives an inspiring speech about his loneliness and friendship with Connor, which goes viral. Zoe, overcome by the impact her brother and Evan have had on people, kisses him ("You Will Be Found").
Evan and Alana pitch a fundraising idea on The Connor Project's website. In memory of Connor, they want to raise $50,000 in three weeks to reopen the abandoned apple orchard that Evan and Connor supposedly spent time in. Evan, however, preoccupied with his new relationship with Zoe and his newfound family in the Murphys, begins to neglect his mother, Jared, and The Connor Project.
Heidi tells Evan that she saw the video of his speech on Facebook and asks him why he did not tell her about The Connor Project or about his and Connor's friendship. He then, angrily responds that he did not have the time because she is never around. He then rushes off to the Murphys', telling her that he is going to Jared's. At the Murphys', Evan bonds with Larry and confides in him that his father left when he was young, has remarried, and no longer keeps in touch with him or Heidi ("To Break in a Glove"). Sometime later, at Evan's house, Evan makes an offhand comment to Zoe about how he and his mother do not have much money and he needs the scholarships to pay for college. When he begins to mention Connor, Zoe tells him that she does not want their relationship to be about Connor, but about the two of them ("Only Us").
Evan gets into a fight with Jared, who claims that Connor's death was the best thing that ever happened to Evan – he is no longer invisible and has landed the girl of his dreams. Later on, Evan goes to the Murphys', only to discover that they have invited Heidi for dinner. Heidi, who has no idea that Evan had spent time at the Murphys', is mortified when Larry and Cynthia offer to use the money that they had set aside for Connor's college fund to send Evan to school instead. After returning home, Heidi and Evan fight over his secrecy. When Heidi protests that the Murphys are not Evan's family, Evan confesses that he feels not only welcomed but also accepted by the Murphys in light of Heidi's absence and expectations towards Evan's mental health. Heidi tearfully berates him for running off to his new family, while Alana begins to find inconsistencies in the fake emails Evan "received" from Connor and suspects that the entire story is a lie. Beginning to panic, Evan urges Jared to help him clear up the inaccuracies, but Jared refuses due to Evan's own absence. Evan counters that Jared himself had acted as a friend to him only when he needed something from him. Jared threatens to expose Evan, and Evan warns him he could, in turn, open up about Jared's role. All three converge in Evan's conscience, compounding his guilt and doubt over his decisions ("Good for You").
Evan decides he has to come clean with what he has done. Imaginary Connor attempts to talk him out of it, citing the happiness he has given the Murphys and the fate of Evan's relationship with Zoe, but Evan does not back down, angrily shouting he needs the whole thing to be over. Connor is unconvinced and asks Evan how he broke his arm: did he fall by accident or actually let go? Evan denies intent, but Connor tells him that if he tells the truth, all he has will be gone, and the only thing he will be left with is himself. He disappears, leaving Evan alone.
Evan goes to apologize to Alana, but she says she has given up on The Connor Project. She doubts the truth of Evan's repeated statements that he was Connor's best friend, since they were never seen together, and she says that it is easy to create fake backdated emails. Desperate, Evan says he has proof that they were friends. He shows her the letter to himself that he wrote when he was giving up on having a good year, claiming it to be Connor's suicide note. Realizing that the letter is the key to fulfilling the fundraising goal, Alana posts it online, to Evan's chagrin, and it goes viral. As a result, however, many people begin to believe Connor's suicide was because of his uncaring parents.
Evan is distraught and goes to see the Murphys, who have become the targets of hateful comments from people who believe they were responsible for Connor's death. He walks in on the three of them fighting about why Connor really killed himself and finally admits that he fabricated the entire thing, hopeful that he could forge a genuine bond with the Murphys out of the tragedy. As Zoe and her mother tearfully run out, Larry turns away from Evan in disgust. Alone once more, Evan absorbs his perceived brokenness as inescapable ("Words Fail").
Evan finds Heidi waiting for him at home, who saw the letter online, immediately knowing that it was one of Evan's therapy assignments. She apologizes to Evan for not seeing how badly he had been hurting, though Evan denies her guilt due to his deception. He then vaguely admits that his fall was a suicide attempt. Heidi sits him down and recalls the day that his father moved out: how she felt so small and alone and did not know how she was going to make it by herself. In the end, however, she realized that she was not alone – she had Evan and knew that the two of them could make it through anything so long as they were together. Tearfully, Heidi promises that she will always be there for him when he needs her ("So Big/So Small").
A year later, Evan is still living at home and working at Pottery Barn to have enough money to go to college the next semester. He contacts Zoe, whom he has not seen since she found out the truth, asking if she will agree to meet him. She does, but insists that they meet at the orchard that has been reopened in Connor's memory. He apologizes for the pain he caused her family and admits that he has been reading Connor's ten favorite books after finding a list in an old yearbook in an attempt to connect with who he really was. He also thanks her and her parents for keeping his secret and revealing that they never told anyone else that his friendship with Connor was a lie. She forgives him, saying the whole ordeal brought her family closer together over the past year because "everyone needed it for something." Evan asks her why she insisted on meeting at the orchard, and she replies that she wanted to be sure he saw it, and the two share a gentle moment before they awkwardly part. Evan mentally writes himself one last letter reflecting on the impact he has had on his community and finally accepts himself ("Finale").
|Original Broadway Cast
|Current Broadway Cast
|Evan Hansen||Ben Platt||Taylor Trensch|
|Heidi Hansen||Rachel Bay Jones|
|Zoe Murphy||Laura Dreyfuss|
|Cynthia Murphy||Jennifer Laura Thompson|
|Larry Murphy||Michael Park||John Dossett||Michael Park|
|Connor Murphy||Mike Faist|
|Alana Beck||Alexis Molnar||Kristolyn Lloyd||Phoenix Best|
|Jared Kleinman||Will Roland|
*Not included on the Original Broadway Cast Recording
An original Broadway cast album was released at midnight on February 3, 2017. The second song on the album, "Waving Through A Window", was released as a special early download for those who had pre-ordered the album. The fifth song, "Requiem", was made available to stream for 24 hours on January 26, 2017, a week before the release of the cast recording. The song was released as a second pre-order bonus the next day. The recording of the Act 1 finale "You Will Be Found" was available for a first listen online on January 30, 2017. The cast album debuted at number 8 on the February 25 Billboard 200. The cast album became available in compact disc format on February 24, 2017.
Dear Evan Hansen premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., running from July 10 to August 23, 2015. Directed by Michael Greif, with orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, the set was designed by David Korins and the projection design was by Peter Nigrini. The cast featured Ben Platt in the title role.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theater on March 26, 2016, in previews, with the official opening on May 1. The cast featured Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Will Roland and Jennifer Laura Thompson repeating their roles from the Arena Stage production. New cast members were John Dossett and Kristolyn Lloyd. Michael Greif again directed, with choreography by Danny Mefford. The Off-Broadway engagement closed on May 29, 2016.
The show premiered on Broadway on November 14, 2016, in previews, and officially opened on December 4. After originally announcing that performances would take place at the Belasco Theatre, in mid-September 2016, producers announced that the show would instead be performed at the Music Box Theatre. Michael Park, who originated the role of Larry in the Arena Stage production, returned for the Broadway production (replacing John Dossett who went on to the musical War Paint). All other cast members from the Second Stage production returned for the Broadway engagement.Ben Platt played his last performance on November 19, 2017. Noah Galvin replaced Platt on November 21, 2017 and played until February 2018. Taylor Trensch played two performances in the show before officially replacing Galvin in February 2018.
The show will play its first international performance in Toronto, Canada. The production is slated to begin in performances in March 2019.
Derek Mong, in his review of the musical at the Arena Stage, wrote that the "inventive set design by David Korins...that transforms a small stage into a platform for the most intimate living room where a mother and son share a heart-to-heart to the physical abyss of internet cyberspace... book by Steven Levenson... lyrics and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul... heartfelt lyrics with universal appeal joined by the perfect, oftentimes acoustic, accompaniment that can change the mood from somber to celebratory to sinister in a single bar of music."
Barbara Mackay in reviewing the Arena Stage production for TheatreMania wrote: "Levenson, Pasek, and Paul set themselves two high, untraditional bars in Evan Hansen: exploring a community's grief and examining a lonely protagonist who desperately wants to connect with that community... Ben Platt is outstanding as Evan... Since the success of the musical depends entirely on whether Evan's solitary nature appears funny or weird, Evan's ability to laugh at himself and make the audience laugh is crucial. Platt is charming as he eternally twists his shirt tails and hangs his head... Although the themes of grief and loneliness are serious, the musical is anything but somber. It addresses challenging facts of life. But from start to finish, when Evan leaves his room and finds an authentic life outside it, Dear Evan Hansen contains far more joy than sadness."
Susan Davidson, in her review of the Arena Stage production for CurtainUp, noted: "...it helps to suspend the disbelief that sullen, anti-social teenagers can change quickly. Surely that's a process requiring time-released hormonal adjustments. It is hard to accept that a long-admired-from-afar girl can change Evan's outlook on life so rapidly or that Connor's teenage disequilibrium leads him to do what he does. Coming through loud and clear, however, is the fact that what starts as deceit can be blown totally out of proportion by the Internet where lies are disseminated with lightning speed leaving plenty of victims in their wake...The music is pleasant, not terribly original but good enough to get toes tapping. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's ballads stand out, particularly Heidi's "So Big/So Small," Evan's "Words Fail" and Zoe and Evan's young sweethearts duet "Only Us.""
Charles Isherwood, in his review of the Second Stage production for The New York Times, noted: "The songs, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight, A Christmas Story), strike the same complex notes, with shapely, heartfelt lyrics that expose the tensions and conflicts that Connor’s death and Evan’s involvement cause in both families. The music, played by a small but excellent band on a platform upstage, is appealingly unstrident pop-rock, with generous doses of acoustic guitar, keyboards and strings. It’s the finest, most emotionally resonant score yet from this promising young songwriting team."
Dear Evan Hansen is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.
|2016||Helen Hayes Award||Outstanding Musical—HAYES Production||Won|
|Outstanding Direction of a Musical—HAYES Production||Michael Greif||Won|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical—HAYES Production||Laura Dreyfuss||Nominated|
|Jennifer Laura Thompson||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical—HAYES Production||Won|
|Outstanding Lighting Design—HAYES Production||Japhy Weideman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Musical Direction—HAYES Production||Ben Cohn||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design—HAYES Production||David Kornis (Set Design) and Peter Nigrini (Projection Design)||Nominated|
|2016||The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical||Steven Levenson (Book) and Pasek & Paul (Lyrics & Music)||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical||Won|
|Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)||Pasek & Paul||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)||Steven Levenson||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Michael Greif||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Ben Platt||Nominated|
|Outstanding Projection Design (Play or Musical)||Peter Nigrini||Nominated|
|Off Broadway Alliance Awards||Best New Musical||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance||Ben Platt||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Lyrics||Pasek & Paul||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Rachel Bay Jones||Nominated|
|Outstanding Projection Design||Peter Nigrini||Nominated|
|Obie Awards||Obie Award for Musical Theatre||Steven Levenson (Book) and Pasek & Paul (Lyrics & Music)||Won|
|Obie Award for Distinguished Performance by an Actor||Ben Platt||Won|
|2017||Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical||Ben Platt||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Rachel Bay Jones||Won|
|Outstanding Projection Design||Peter Nigrini||Nominated|
|2017||Tony Awards||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Steven Levenson||Won|
|Best Original Score||Pasek & Paul||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Ben Platt||Won|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical||Mike Faist||Nominated|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical||Rachel Bay Jones||Won|
|Best Lighting Design of a Musical||Japhy Weideman||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Michael Greif||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Alex Lacamoire||Won|
|Drama League Awards||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Production||Won|
|Distinguished Performance||Ben Platt||Won|
|Rachel Bay Jones||Nominated|
|2018||Grammy Awards||Best Musical Theater Album||Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Kristolyn Lloyd, Michael Park, Ben Platt,Will Roland & Jennifer Laura Thompson (principal soloists); Pete Ganbarg, Alex Lacamoire, Stacey Mindich, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (producers); Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (composers/lyricists)||Won|
|Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program||Ben Platt & the Cast of Dear Evan Hansen
"You Will Be Found"
(performed on The Today Show)