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Review: Musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ tackles bullying and mental health issues

Musical "Dear Evan Hansen" was

The six-time Tony Award winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” came to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles from Oct. 17 to Nov. 25.

The powerful musical takes you through many different emotions one can encounter through challenging high school years. The story also deals with difficult issues such as depression, bullying and suicide.

The introverted and awkward senior in high school, Evan, finds comfort in the isolation of his room as he is bullied at school and is unable to fit in. He received an assignment from his therapist to write a motivational letter to himself by starting with “Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day and here’s why.” Little did he know that this would be the letter that would change his life and put him in the center of a well-intentioned lie.

Evan’s letter ends up in the wrong hands of the school’s bully, Connor Murphy. Connor later takes his own life — a poignant indication of how everyone is struggling with their own issues.

Connor’s parents find the letter and mistake it for their son’s suicide letter, addressed to Evan, leading them to think that Evan and Connor were friends. Not wanting to further upset Connor’s parents, Evan goes along with it. The Murphys latch onto Evan and he connects with them and their daughter, Zoe. He ends up spending more time with them than his own unavailable single mother.

Through a series of misunderstandings stemming from his lie, Evan’s popularity grows. He creates the Connor Project with another outcast, Alana. His lie of being Connor’s best friend brings him a new family and increased popularity but it spirals out of control. He is left questioning whether he should tell the truth and face losing everything that he has gained, including finally fitting in.

Ben Platt, who is best known for his role as Benji Applebaum in Pitch Perfect, starred as Evan in the Broadway production and received a Tony Award for this role. Native of Los Angeles, Ben Levi Ross started his role as Evan on the Broadway stage and is now in the national tour that came to Los Angeles. His compelling acting and powerful singing, along with the rest of the talented cast, carry the show forward.

Throughout the musical, social media and text messages are displayed on many screens on the stage as some of the dialogue occurs through laptops and cell phones which speaks directly to our generation. Dear Evan Hansen is also relatable to all high school students who have ever felt that they did not fit in. The reassuring message in the song “You Will Be Found” shows it is possible to find your place.

Evan’s bedroom is flooded with social media messages. (Photo by Hailey Esses)
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