“Dear Evan Hansen” is Providing a Gateway for Mental Health Representation
April 3, 2018
On December 4 2016, hit broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen” opened, creating a shockwave of support throughout the world. The show was written by Steven Levenson, and starred Ben Platt as Evan Hansen (the actor is commonly known for his role as ‘Benji’ in “Pitch Perfect”), Mike Faist as Connor Murphy (a former actor in “Newsies”), Laura Dreyfuss as Zoe Murphy (formerly who played Madison McCarthy on “Glee”), Will Roland as Jared Kleinman (in his Broadway debut), and Kristolyn Lloyd as Alana Beck (also in her Broadway debut).
It follows the life of the title character, Evan Hansen, a socially awkward teenager who gets caught up in an enormous lie after the suicide of classmate Connor Murphy. Before Connor’s death, Evan was found in the computer lab with Connor while printing out his therapeutic letter to himself, in which he wrote that the year was “pinned on Zoe,” Connor’s younger sister and the girl Evan is in love with. Connor read the letter, and, assuming that Evan was making fun of him, stole the letter from Evan. Soon after, Connor killed himself (the reason why is unknown, and still had Evan’s note in his pocket, so everyone began to think that Connor and Evan were best friends. As Evan struggles with his own issues of mental health and confidence, he doesn’t know how to tell Connor’s grieving family that he didn’t actually know their son.
Perhaps the most well known song of the musical is the second track, “Waving Through
a Window,” a meaningful solo sung by Evan, where he depicts his struggles to fit in and relate to his peers. This song — with an upbeat tempo but thought-provoking lyrics — will speak to those with mental health issues everywhere. It shows how hopelessly alone Evan feels and how lost he is with himself.
The songs “Disappear” and “You will be Found” fill the audience with hope. “Disappear” attempts to destroy the feeling that most who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other illnesses have that they can’t make a difference. The lines “You still matter” and “No one deserves to be forgotten,” sang by Evan and Connor — who appears in Evan’s thoughts — can uplift and encourage all of us to keep going, because even if you don’t accomplish something amazing, it doesn’t mean that you are not important. In this song we also see a short return of Evan’s solo, “Waving through a Window,” yet this time it is sung by Connor. It is crushing to hear the words “All you want is for somebody to find you” in Connor’s voice, as you know that he clearly never felt found.
“You will be Found” spreads this message again, showing audiences that there will always be help, comfort, and a friend waiting to pick them up when they’re down. It depicts the kickoff event of a new fund, “The Connor Project,” which is an attempt to keep Connor’s memory
alive to show that everyone matters.
After intermission, Evan’s life begins to fall apart. While trying to keep up with the new “Connor Project,” he becomes stressed and struggles to keep the false story of his and Connor’s friendship straight. Evan is constantly at the Murphy’s (Connor and Zoe’s family’s) house, which leads to a conflict between Evan and his mother. He becomes irritable with his partners in the “Connor Project,” Jared and Alana. These conflicts lead to “Good For You,” a song sung by those who Evan has hurt with his recent behavior.
Eventually, the conflict becomes too much for Evan, and he can’t lie anymore. He breaks down into the powerful solo, “Words Fail,” where he reveals to the Murphy’s that everything he had told them about Connor was a lie. This song again connects back to the original “Waving Through a Window” theme, and the audience is heartbroken as Evan sings about how he wanted to pretend he had a perfect life, friends, and that he’s “something better than these broken parts.”
The story flashes forward to Zoe’s forgiveness of Evan, ending the show on a sad yet hopeful note.
All in all, however, this musical is much more impactful than it seems at a glance. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people struggles or has struggled with some form of mental health issue throughout their lives. However, mental health has always been something people are forced to keep hidden. As the audience watches Evan struggle with the thought that his life doesn’t matter and that he’s not enough, they can learn from Evan’s struggles and realize that no matter how insignificant you may feel, you are still important. It ignites hope in those who feel “broken on the ground,” and that no matter what, “You will be found.”