In a season filled with outstanding musicals, Dear Evan Hansen seems like a shoe-in to win this year's Tony Award for best new musical. Composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul teamed with stellar librettist Steven Levenson and musical director Alex Lacamoire to produce a singular and completely original work of beauty, and Lacamoire has done a masterful job of capturing it in this original cast album.
In the stage production, Ben Platt delivers what might be the greatest individual performance ever on a musical theater stage, portraying Evan, a teenager struggling to cope with crippling social anxiety. Pasek and Paul break musical conventions by handing the character a blockbuster first solo number, "Waving Through A Window." It's a beautiful song that showcase's Platt's effortless tenor while dragging you in and setting up all that follows.
In the musical, Levenson's dialog combines humor and suspense to unfold a plot in which Evan gets tangled up in a painful lie with the parents of another troubled boy, Connor Murphy. Unable to admit his own dark truths, Evan keeps digging himself deeper in a script that channels the best writing of Alfred Hitchcock. It's astonishing to watch, and while the dialog is not part of the cast album, Lacamoire has done a masterful job of capturing the tensions and beauty of the performances in this recording.
Listen for example to "For Forever," the song in which Evan is trapped into fabricating the fake backstory of his friendship to Connor's parents. It's a beautiful, hopeful, soaring song capturing Evan's dream of what a real friendship might be, while allowing him to reinvent the painful truth of how he broke his arm; but every time Evan starts to lie, an electric guitar enhanced with reverb and delay provide a haunting suggestion that something's not right.
As the lie ultimately collapses in the second act song "Words Fail," Platt somehow manages to have a complete breakdown while singing on stage. It's a tour de force, and it is lovingly captured here for posterity. Platt surely will walk away with the Tony Award for lead in a musical, and soon after this recording is all we'll have left to remember his astonishing performance.
As for Pasek and Paul's songwriting, you aren't human if you can keep a dry eye through Rachel Bay Jones' heart wrenching rendition of "So Big/So Small," a mother's apology to her son for having "come up short a million different ways," but promising to always be there for him. Here again, Lacamoire's restrained acoustic arrangement is perfection, allowing Jones' love and despair to transmit to the recording.
The "supporting roles" in this cast are not to be ignored, particularly the more "minor" roles such as Evan's fellow students. They are all exceptional singers, and they blend to lift songs such as Waving Through a Window, You Will Be Found, and Finale.
I wish everybody could see this show, but it's a comfort to know that this cast recording has captured the essence so beautifully for generations.
I would like to join several other reviewers who are proclaiming this score the best new score in a long time. Someone else suggested Next to Normal as a point of reference for the last truly great Broadway score, and I can't disagree. This is where the very talented Benj Paskek and Justin Paul have been headed since they debuted with Dogfight which suggested the heights of greatness they were capable of but didn't quite get us all the way. The characters, as revealed in the musical score (I have not seen the show, but trust me I can't wait) are emotionally honest and take the listener from unbelievably exhilarated (For Forever and To Break in a Glove) to Gut Wrenching (Good For You, Words Fail) and in a final mixture of despair and wishful hope, So Big/ So Small. I am completely blown away by this score.
To fully grasp how excited I am, I have to mention a recent experience with another teen age angst musical, Jason Robert Brown's 13. In preparation for seeing 13 I bought and listened to the cast album. I HATED it, found the behavior of the characters bordering on out and out bullying. I found the show plays a bit better than the CD because the book softens some of the incredibly obnoxious actions and when you are looking at a group of sweet faced youngsters, it becomes possible to overlook some of their worst actions.
Dear Evan Hanson portrays characters caught up in social anxieties of the day, more comfortable talking to someone through a computer or cell phone than face to face, but basically decent people who would like to be better than they are. That is the emotional richness that Pasek and Paul serve us. At this moment I find it hard to imagine that this score will not win the Tony and if the entire show is as good as the score, Best Musical of the Year. I haven't been this excited by a new musical in a very very long time. Hamilton which has excited many others simply is not my cup of tea, the musical styles do not fit me. Now that I think of it, Dear Evan Hanson might be the greatest entirely original musical ever written. Almost all of the greatest musicals started from previous source material.
Musical theatre does not get any better than this! What an amazing score!! Not since "Next To Normal" (in my opinion) has a new score been so pefectly written to convey the emotions and lives of the characters. The performances - especially that of Ben Platt - are some of the finest you will experience in many many theatrical seasons. And that's based on just the recording. Special praise also to Rachel Bay Jones and Michael Park - who delivers another beautiful Second Act moment this season with "To Break In A Glove". (His performance of "The Wheel" in the recent "Tuck Everlasting" takes your breath away!) Bravo and Brava to all involved! I predict a bevy of awards will be bestowed on this incredible work.
I had Hamilton on repeat until I discovered Dear Evan Hansen. The two shows could not be more different, but what they share in common is their pure genius. If you are a teen, if you've ever been a teen, if you are a parent (especially the parent of a teen), this cast recording, this show is for you. #youwillbefound
Fantastic. Good storyline, even if, as my father says, "it's a bit juvenile" - but I found it to be relatable for me and my 17 year old son. The songs are beautifully written and masterfully performed. If you love musicals, I think you'll love this. Even some friends who aren't into musicals really liked this. It's refreshing to see a new musical that's focused on the issues of social media and how people interject themselves into others lives to feel a part of something, while safely not having to be seen, and how awkward it can get when you step out from behind the keys. I would highly recommend looking up the basic storyline online before listening, because the story is not really explained from just the songs, as this is a musical with spoken parts, whereas most musicals the entire story is in song. I listened to it without knowing what was happening and still loved it, but was confused about what the heck happened lol thank goodness the internet was there to sort me out!
This is a stellar album and a great representation of the broadway show without really giving away that much of the plot, due to the fact that it includes none of the spoken parts. It's just great, uplifting music and incredible vocal work. If you're a fan of Broadway, this is an album to own. And if you really want to understand the particulars of the plot, there is a pretty good summary of it on Wikipedia.
I have never seen this musical, but this recording makes me wish I had. I saw a song performed during a TV show and knew I needed to hear more.
I think almost every parent has wondered Anybody Got a Map? And anyone who was insecure in high school knows the emotions expressed in Waving through a Window. My heart sings with Disappear with these thoughts: "No one deserves to be forgotten. No one deserves to fade away.... No one deserves to disappear." And the hope in You Will Be Found makes me tear up.
The CD booklet includes the lyrics and photos from the play. The best part was the introduction written by Steven Levenson. The thoughts about how social media has affected our lives and connections is thought provoking.
If you like musicals, you'll probably like this recording. I'm glad that I have the CD for the booklet it has.
This CD and play are (to simply put it) AMAZING. I bought this purely out of curiosity because I kept hearing my radio show talk about the play and I was not disappointed. The message presented in the play is one I think pretty much everyone can relate to now-a-days from a multitude of angles. The songs have a fantastic combination of different types of songs from perky and fun to serious and sad. One minute you will be laughing at the ridiculousness of "Sincerely Me" and the next you will be debating crying during "Requiem." If you are into musical theater, this is worth checking out.
As a mom of 5, I can relate to the very first song: Anybody Have A Map? It's sung by 2 moms who are bewildered by their teen-aged sons' behavior. They don't know what to say or do or how to help them. Good songs.
If I could give this more than 5 stars I certainly would. I saw this show on Broadway in April 2017 and was completely blown away at the story, the performances and the music. I bought this on CD to take with me in the car and have been playing it almost constantly since I received it. I can still see Ben Platt onstage tearing these songs up when I listen. I love this music and I LOVED the show.