It’s finally here. The show everyone’s talking about this season, Dear Evan Hansen, just released their cast album this past Friday and I’m here to give my thoughts. I’ve got to be honest, I’m pretty biased towards this show – when the cast album was announced I pre-ordered it immediately. I first came across Dear Evan Hansen last spring when it was running Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre through a few people on social media. The plot holds incredible similarities to something I experienced my freshman year of high school, and the use of social media and Ben Platt in the title role really drew me in. Despite my excitement, I’m going to try my best to take a neutral stance for this review. So, does the cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen truly live up to the hype of the show itself? Let’s find out.
In Dear Evan Hansen, high school senior Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) gets unexpectedly wrapped up in a complicated lie surrounding the suicide of fellow student Connor Murphy (Mike Faist). As the lie spreads through social media, the socially anxious Evan begins to connect with Connor’s sister and his crush, Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss), and their parents, Larry (Michael Park) and Cynthia (Jennifer Laura Thompson). Eventually, tensions start to grow between Evan’s mother, Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones) and his friends, Jared (Will Roland) and Alana (Kristolyn Lloyd), causing Evan to wonder if he did the right thing for a chance to fit in.
One thing that is apparent the moment you hit play on the cast album, is that every cast member has a moment to shine. Interestingly, the first song of the album, “Anybody Have a Map?” features Heidi and Cynthia and their struggles in parenting in a digital age. The decision to feature the mothers of Dear Evan Hansen versus the titular character in the first song of the show really sets the tone for the rest of the musical and shows the listener that no character will be pushed to the side without getting at least some development.
The most notable performance on the album is Ben Platt (best known for his role as “Benji” in the Pitch Perfect films) in the title role. His breakout song in the musical is “Waving Through a Window“, in which Evan expresses his desire to fit in with his peers and be apart of something bigger. The aforementioned song has been quite popular with listeners even before the cast album release, thanks to its incredibly relatable lyrics (written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) and to the Dear Evan Hansen marketing team releasing it as a free download to those whole pre-ordered the cast album. Platt’s impressive tenor vocals that feature a strong belt also take center stage in “For Forever” and “Words Fail” – the latter of which many say is the most emotional song in album thanks to Platt’s talents. Rachel Bay Jones as Heidi has a few similar moments as well – “So Big / So Small” is a number so emotionally draining on Jones that after she comes off stage, one of the stage managers tells her a different joke after every live performance. Her, along with Kristolyn Lloyd as Alana and Will Roland as Jared also give a commendable performance in the intense Act 2 number “Good For You“, in which Evan’s lie is exposed and his friends and family become upset with his choices.
A more comedic song and arguably the most catchy out of the whole track list, is “Sincerely, Me“, which features Platt, Faist, and Roland’s characters trying to write backdated emails to back up Evan’s claim that him and Connor were in fact friends and wrote candid emails to each other. With a toe-tapping, bouncing piano melody, a catchy refrain that’s been stuck in my head all weekend, and lyrics that are just plain absurd when taken out of context such as “You’ll be obsessed with all my forest expertise!”, this song is my personal favorite.
But perhaps the true selling point of the Dear Evan Hansen cast album (at the time of writing this, it currently sits at the number one spot on the iTunes top albums chart), despite its stellar cast, is what its message provides listeners of all ages with – a sense of belonging. This comes in the form of the show’s powerful Act 1 finale, “You Will Be Found“, where Evan attempts to convince those at a school assembly that there will always be someone there for them. The song’s building chorus comes to fruition with a simple refrain of the phrase “You are not alone.” that practically bursts with hope. The titular mantra of the song has become so popular among fans that the official Dear Evan Hansen social media have taken to using it as a marketing hashtag, which many fans use to share their personal stories, photos, covers, fanart, and more to show what the musical means to them. If you must listen to only one song from Dear Evan Hansen, I’m begging you – make it this one.
The message that “You Will Be Found” and Dear Evan Hansen itself tries to leave its listeners, I feel, is the beauty of Dear Evan Hansen‘s cast album release: everyone – no matter how old you are, where you come from, or the circumstances – can relate to feeling alone, feeling like a burden, feeling like nobody would notice if you just disappeared one day. What’s difficult to grasp about that feeling – if you’ve ever felt it in any magnitude – is that you can’t really understand the immense weight of that feeling and how so many people are affected by it until you see it manifest in such a large way. Until you truly see it’s not just you. And seeing a entire real, tangible community of people who have once experienced similar struggles and come out the other side intact makes it true that, yes, you are not alone in what you feel. And yes – you will be found, no matter how broken you might be.
Dear Evan Hansen is currently playing on Broadway, and the cast album is available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. For more information visit dearevanhansen.com.
— Crisis Text Line (@CrisisTextLine) February 4, 2017