Fans of Dear Evan Hansen have long anticipated its cinema release. Dear Evan Hansen, which features music by Ben Pasek and Justin Paul, premiered on Broadway in 2016 to much critical acclaim. Winner of many awards including Tony awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Musical, Grammy award for Best Musical Theatre Album and a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, the musical tells the story of a young Evan Hansen who struggles with social anxiety disorder and who yearns to make a connection with his peers, even if by doing this he’s living a lie. The story is ultimately about identity and acceptance, whilst also dealing with complicated themes such as youth suicide and mental health.
Ben Platt has worked with the production since its original workshops in 2014 and originated the role of Evan Hansen on Broadway. To many fans delight, he returned to the role to create this film. However, at age 28 it is, at times, hard to believe that he is a 17-year-old boy. Vocally he is amazing, as is his acting performance. Platt knows the character in and out but the special effects to make him look younger sometimes are not believable and in some cases actually have the opposite effect. Perhaps a fresh, original actor may have been preferable. Overall the cast are very good, Kaitlyn Dever gives a fantastic performance as Zoe but her vocals feel weak, particularly against Platt’s. Amandla Stenberg, as Alana Beck, is brilliant however and the new song ‘The Anonymous Ones’ is a welcome addition to the show. Well-known faces such as Amy Adams and Julianne Moore give good performances, full of emotion. However during ‘So Big/So Small’ Moore’s vocals are not as strong as needed to really capture the emotion. For a musical film, it is a shame that perhaps more Broadway trained performers are not taking these crucial roles.
The storyline and plot remains faithful to the original show with a few changes along the way. Pasek and Paul’s original score is much the same with some notable songs excluded including unforgivably the iconic song ‘Disappear’. The songs are much loved, especially ‘You Will Be Found‘ and ‘Waving Through A Window‘ and Platt performs them brilliantly, exuding emotion throughout. The addition of new song ‘The Anonymous Ones’, written in collaboration with Amandla Stenberg is a welcome addition as during the stage show Alana Beck does not receive as much time as this character deserves. The song really helps to highlight the inner struggle with mental health and that it can affect anyone. Again, Connor Murphy’s new song ‘A Little Closer’ is well written and performed, although the slight change to the finale of the film may upset devoted fans of the show.
There have been a lot of rumours and concerns about the release of this film from many of its devoted fans around the world. The age of Ben Platt and how he comes across on screen has been a huge concern to many and, truthfully, at times this does distract from the overall performance. However, as musical films go this is definitely one of the better examples. Fans of Dear Evan Hansen, and musicals in general, are sure to enjoy this stage-to-screen adaptation. Its musical numbers, emotion and the clever direction stays true to the original stage performance and with slight amendments characters such as Alana have a greater role making sure that audiences can clearly understand the, at times, complex plot. It is a long film however and without a fairy tale happy ending it may be hard to attract the general public due to the nature of the topics covered. Nevertheless, it is definitely a film to watch and one to add to the collection for any musical fan.
Dear Evan Hansen was released in the UK on the 23rd October 2021 and is currently playing in cinemas nationwide.