by SHANNON GLEBA, Staff Writer
On Sunday, Sept. 22, lucky Manhattan College students attended the matinee of “Dear Evan Hansen” at the Music Box Theatre. The Student Engagement office sold discounted tickets to the award-winning show, however the limited amount sold out in about one hour.
At 3:00 p.m., the show opened with a very minimalistic set, only a twin sized bed on the stage with a simple plaid quilt on top. At this time, the audience was introduced to the show’s namesake main character, Evan Hansen. The teenaged boy suffered from social anxiety, and is seen writing a letter, encouraging himself to make the school year great. “Dear Evan Hansen,” the letter reads, followed by a few sentences that Evan writes and deleted over and over, trying to find the right words to say.
After a scene change and the introduction of more characters, the audience then saw Evan in the high school hallway. This is when Evan first interacted with the show’s other main character- Connor Murphy. Connor has been bullied at school, has become calloused, and has turned to drugs to cope despite the expressed concerns from his family. In the hallway, Connor pushed Evan to the ground without an apology.
When the school day came to a close, Evan went to the computer lab to print the aforementioned self-addressed letter, and he is approached by Connor who pulled the letter off the printer. After a short conversation, Connor read the letter and found a line mentioning his sister, who Evan had a crush on. Thinking Evan was mocking him and making fun of him, Connor stormed out of the computer lab.
After an unexpected turn of events, a few days later Connor’s parents approached Evan at school. With tears in her eyes, Mrs. Murphy announced that Connor committed suicide, and left Evan’s note in his pocket at the time. As a result, Mrs. Murphy believed that Evan’s letter to himself was actually Connor’s suicide note that was addressed to his “best friend” Evan. Following this announcement, Evan does not know how to say that he was not friends with Connor, and they were actually enemies. So, he lies and follows along with the narrative, telling Connor’s parents that they did have a strong relationship.
This one lie then leads to the rest of the play. Throughout the entirety of the two and a half hour play, the story unravels, and other characters get involved to carry on Evan’s lie.
Overall, this musical met every expectation I had for it for the past number of years. Although I was not completely familiar with the plot of the show, I had heard amazing reviews of it, and was always curious to learn more about it.
I think this show is important for a number of reasons, including the implications it has in the fight against mental illness stigma. In this day and age, the frequency of anxiety disorders among adolescents has skyrocketed. It was refreshing to see a character that embodied the common plight that many live with, and to see that others have relatable experiences.
Likewise, I really enjoyed the way the musical displayed many types of characters with different background stories. Every family, teenager and adult has parts of their lives they do not choose to share, whether that be a familial struggle or a personal one. “Dear Evan Hansen” reminded the audience of that fact, all while entertaining with impeccable music and even better acting.
All in all, “Dear Evan Hansen” checks many of the boxes that make a Broadway musical great, and I believe it should be at the top of the list of those looking for a new show to see.