Musicals have the power to get through an audience not just with their powerful dialogue but with songs that send a message of what the characters are feeling. If we can leave the show learning about mental illness, then we know we have left with newly acquired knowledge of seeing the world from a different perspective. Dear Evan Hansen is a Tony-winning musical that deals with issues like social anxiety and suicide with an important message that we are not alone.
Dear Evan Hansen is a musical about being misunderstood. The main character, Evan, is suffering with severe social anxiety as he does not really have any friends, has a complicated relationship with his mother, and tried to kill himself by jumping out of a tree leaving him with a broken arm. He is instructed by his therapist to write a note to himself in which he writes about whether anyone would notice he was gone and how he has no hope for a good day. A bully named Connor steals Evan’s note. When Connor kills himself later, his parents find Evan’s note in Connor’s pocket and assume that Connor meant to give that note to Evan, not knowing that Evan wrote the letter to himself. Because Connor did not leave a real suicide note, Evan decides to give Connor’s parents closure by pretending that the note was for Evan and that they were best friends.
Written by La La Land’s Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, each song helps us understand the anxiety issues that each character goes through. In “Waving Through a Window,” Evan explains that he feels no one can see him or hear him “‘cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass waving through a window.” In “Requiem,” Connor’s sister Zoe sings of how she does not like these expectations of having to mourn for her brother when they never got along with each other, Connor’s mother sings how this letter brings her closer to her son, and Connor’s father sings how disappointed he is in his son. This shows how suicide affects people differently. This musical also brings the sad truth that in schools when someone dies, the people who knew them become popular just for knowing that person. The most important song in the musical is “You Will Be Found” in how everyone feels sad and misplaced but eventually, everyone will be found and loved.
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