A misunderstanding created a whole new life – a life that he so desperately yearned for. But at what cost?
That was the center of Dear Evan Hansen – a Tony Award-winning musical that made it’s Canadian debut in March 2019. I had the pleasure of viewing it this past week at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Dear Evan Hansen does a great job of showcasing the very real issues surrounding mental illness and the struggles among our younger generation. The infusion of song at relevant parts of the plot added to the drama and emotional depth of each scene.
As the title explains, Dear Evan Hansen centres around the protagonist, Evan Hansen, a troubled teen who suffers from social anxiety and has been told by his therapist to write letters to himself as a way of expressing the positive things that he would do each day. But one day, Evan is feeling especially down and expresses his feelings for a female classmate (Zoe) in one his letters – emphasizing that his crush on her is all that seems to bring him happiness. The girl’s brother (Connor) mistakenly stumbles across the letter at school, which would lead to a series of events riddled that would shape the entirety of the play. Evan would get that chance at happiness, he would experience a life he so desperately yearned for – but was it real?
In my humble opinion, the musical did a decent job of capturing the life of teenagers today, from the profanity-laden dialogue in some scenes, to the illustration of the true impact of social media once a tweet goes ‘viral’.
The one theme that really struck a chord with me was the impact of broken families on today’s youth. Evan’s strained relationship with his busy single mom who also went to school part-time, took a major toll on Evan. She had the best of intentions, but she struggled to really connect with her son, never quite understanding the personal demons he fought on a daily basis that went far beyond having food in the fridge.
The arm cast that Evan dawned (displayed in the pic above) was a consequence of what would initially be depicted as an accident but later be revealed to be something much more serious, with the whole incident becoming a key driver in the fabricated world he had built for himself.
Dear Evan Hansen is deeply personal, thought-provoking and tugs at your heart-strings. It serves as a vehicle for open dialogue about the very real impact of mental illness and the lengths that people will go to to simply fill that lingering void in their life. The musical is running until the end of September in Toronto. I have purposefully only scratched the surface of the plot to avoid spoiling anything, so I highly recommend seeing this show.