Universal releases a movie musical this weekend that is pretty much guaranteed to bring many to tears. "Dear Evan Hansen" follows the story of a teenager named Evan and one of the things you need to know at the outset is that he deals with a lot of social anxiety. Evan also recently fell out of a tree, so he wears a cast on his arm. His therapist tells him that he should write letters to himself every day to reflect on the good things in his life. He tries his best. But he's so lonely that instead he decides to write a letter outlining all the things he hates about himself.
A fellow classmate Connor Murphy who's dealing with similar issues says he will sign Evan's cast so at least people will think they're friends. After a mix-up, though, Connor gets ahold of Evan's letter and think he's being mocked by Evan. Connor later takes his life and the letter resurfaces from Connor's grieving parents thinking that these were Connor's last words for his dearest friend, Evan. There's quite an emotional rollercoaster ahead. To make sure you're ready for "Dear Evan Hansen," here are the 9 things you need to know.
From the Tony-Winning Broadway Show
The film was born from the stage musical of the same name that opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December 2016. The original musical was well-received, earning 6 Tony awards, one for Best Musical. The Washington Post called it "one of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history." Though this is essentially a cinematic version of that musical, "Dear Evan Hansen" has some big shoes to fill.
Directed by Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky, writer and director of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Wonder," is the conductor of this new symphony. Both of his previous films share many similarities with Evan Hansen's story. All are about someone who's different than everyone else and just wants to fit in. They're about someone who just wants to live a normal life with normal friends and not have to worry so much. These are coming-of-age stories that we can all relate to in some capacity. Given Chbosky's previous work, we think he's well-equipped to take on this new project.
Based on a True Story
You may or may not have known this, but this film is actually based on a true story from the life of executive producer Benj Pasek. When Pasek was growing up, there was an accidental overdose that happened with a fellow student. In an interview, writer Steven Levenson explains, "It was someone who had been sort of a loner, didn't have a lot of friends or status at school, but suddenly in the wake of the death, Benj watched as everyone wanted to claim that they had been friends with him and claim that they had been a part of this person's life." The social media element that plays into the film wasn't something that played a role in the actual story. But the social element itself certainly did.
Ben Platt Reprises His Title Role
If you're not much of a theatre buff, then you might be surprised to learn that "Pitch Perfect" actor Ben Platt was actually at the center of the original Broadway musical. He managed to bring this character to life when he was just 21 years old. And now he's reprising it at age 27. Unfortunately, he's been receiving a bit of flak via social media with folks saying he looks too old to play a teenager. From what we've seen online, Platt has been instrumental in bringing the project to life after its stage version premiered 5+ years ago. And from the previews of him singing alone, we're not concerned about the quality of his appearance or performance.
Marc Platt Produces
One of the things you might not know about "Dear Evan Hansen" is that Ben Platt's father, Marc Platt, is a producer on the film. Marc has produced films like "Legally Blonde," "La La Land," "Aladdin," and many more. But the ironic part is that Marc and Ben never really got to work together. Because this was filmed during the pandemic, they always had to maintain their distance. Even in his appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Ben said, "I could never see him, or talk to him, or be in the same room as him. I'd use the front door of the house and he'd use the back door."
There Are Some Actors You'll Recognize
With the film adaptation of this popular musical comes the addition of some new cast members. Ben Platt is the only actor that will have been in the musical and the movie. Some of the new names you'll recognize include Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams, and Amandla Stenberg. They all play important roles. And some even include singing.
The Soundtrack Is Everything
The musical won 6 Tony awards. But did we mention that the soundtrack also won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album? That fact alone should let you know that music is one of the things that will make "Dear Evan Hansen" a movie to remember. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, also known as Pasek & Paul, wrote the music and lyrics for the original musical. These guys also wrote the song "City of Stars" featured in "La La Land." They earned an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for that one.
The Cast Sings Live
Get ready to hear the cast sing their songs live! Yes, that's correct. The actors and actresses in the film with singing parts had to just straight up sing. No voiceovers and minimal editing. If acting isn't hard enough, imagine going in and out of conversations, singing in one moment and talking the next. Our hats go off to the hard-working actors/singers in this film.
Make Sure You Have Tissues
As you could probably guess from the subject matter, it's going to be sad. Whether it's the tragic beginning of the story, or the all too relatable themes that follow, we're deeming this a certified tearjerker. Most of the young adult audiences have grown up in or are still continuing to grow through an age of social media. And this film shines a light on its influence, for the better and worse. This is also the type of film that will make you think twice about certain things you may not have considered before. At its core, this is a human film. No fancy CGI or crazy plot twists necessary.
September 24, 2021
Jesse is a writer and content manager for Noovie. When he's not working, he's on the beach playing volleyball.