With blockbuster musicals like “Hamilton” gracing the stage each night, it’s pretty hard for unknown musicals to break through to Broadway.
“Dear Evan Hansen” has made this feat possible by becoming one of the most popular musicals of the year, right behind Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical. “Dear Evan Hansen” stars Ben Platt, of “Pitch Perfect” fame, as well as theater veterans Laura Dreyfuss and Rachel Bay Jones in the story of Evan Hansen, a 17-year-old high school student with crippling social anxiety who attempts suicide before the beginning of the school year. Senior Connor Murphy is the only one who will sign Evan’s cast, so when Connor commits suicide, Evan is left with this inadvertent memorial. Evan then goes about convincing everyone that he and Connor were friends and beginning The Connor Project to restore an abandoned orchard where Connor spent most of his time.
The soundtrack to this musical is absolutely the most uplifting collection of songs I’ve listened to in a long time. After battling against the popularity of “13 Reasons Why” and its effect on mental health awareness, I was in search of something with a better message than the harmful and irresponsible Netflix series. My housemate recommended that I listen to the soundtrack to this breakout Broadway musical and I was absolutely enthralled. The message of the songs was a consistent assurance that no single person deserves to disappear, but instead reaching out for help will ensure that you are found.
Each song develops more emotion and affirmation than the last, and it definitely portrays a better message than the last. The key difference between “Dear Evan Hansen” and “13 Reasons Why” is that where the Netflix portrayal is dangerous and dramatized, nothing that could ever be considered a healthy message, “Dear Evan Hansen” ends up being an amazing and moving depiction of students struggling with mental illness, feelings of disappearing. While some may argue that a musical offers more opportunities to deal with these themes, I disagree. Netflix had the perfect venue to address these realistic issues and they failed miserably while a musical from out of nowhere has succeeded triumphantly.
I’ve been listening to this soundtrack nonstop and even play it while I’m grading papers during my prep period at my student-teaching assignment. The songs are universally consumable, with themes that are appropriate and applicable to everyone from middle school kids to adults. They range from strong ballads to upbeat and boppy pieces to the traditional musical theater style song. What I was most pleased with was that I felt like I wanted for nothing when it came to theme and style of the songs. I can listen to this album over and over again in any mood and it will still bear the same amount of weight that it did the first time I listened to it.
Overall, I recommend “Dear Evan Hansen” over “13 Reasons Why” any day. The themes and encouragement that it brings over the course of the soundtrack are excellent and they surpass “13 Reasons Why” far and away. Instead of buying into the drama and disrespect of the Netflix series, turn towards “Dear Evan Hansen” and indulge in the gorgeous soundtrack and meaningful plot.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.