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Watching ‘Dear Evan Hansen:’ Movie vs. Broadway Show

Note from the Editor: Dear Evan Hansen is now a running Broadway show and film adaption. With both out in the entertainment sphere, it’s easy to get lost in both mediums. Are they much different? Which one is better? With the help from writer Alexis Cosio who has seen both the touring Broadway version and the movie in theaters back in September of 2021, we take a look at both adaptations, and what they offer.


Dear Evan Hansen movie-going experience

I just got back from seeing Dear Evan Hansen, one of the many new movie releases out now in cinemas.

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I chose the 7:30 p.m. showing at the local AMC Theater near me so my boyfriend and I could see it together after his workday ended. We actually met in a theater class, so we both already knew of the musical and had planned to see it when it came out.

I arrived at the AMC just on time. I got movie theater popcorn, candy, and a blue raspberry ICEE. Then I got into the theater with plenty of time to watch the pre-show movie trailers. I was genuinely excited because I got a different selection of trailers than the ones I’ve seen recently and I was introduced to a bunch of new movies premiering in the coming months. While the movie theater was pretty empty, it filled out right before the movie started.

What is Dear Evan Hansen about?

Dear Evan Hansen (directed by Stephen Chbosky) is based on the 2016 Tony-winning Broadway musical by the same name. It follows Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), a depressed, anxious, and lonely high school student with a busy, working single mom (Julianne Moore) who shows up for him the best she can. Evan feels alone and othered by his peers, and dreams of talking to his crush, Zoe Murphy (Kaitlyn Dever), because he thinks she might be the solution to his loneliness. When a letter that Evan wrote for an exercise in therapy falls into the hands of Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), he thinks his life is over. Instead, days later, he is approached by Connor’s grieving parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) who think this note is Connor’s last words before ending his own life. As a result, Evan is forced on a journey of self-discovery.

The movie also stars Amandla Stenberg as Alana Beck and Nik Dodani as Jared Kalwani.

My thoughts on Dear Evan Hansen

I must start by saying that I saw the national touring production of this musical during the height of its popularity. Despite the multitude of awards it was winning, I sat in my local theater and watched people, mostly in their forties or older, stand and leave in flocks. My mom and I were both surprised. She shook her head and remarked at how some older people just weren’t ready to see a story about mental health and that they “just couldn’t relate to kids today.”

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I watched this movie and expected fellow movie-goers to walk out. No one did. Although movie tickets are much cheaper than theater tickets, I think this was the case for several reasons. I genuinely believe we’ve come a long way in our discussion about mental health. Watching Evan Hansen interact with his classmates despite his lack of social cues feels painfully like how many of us currently feel as we leave the comfort of our COVID bubbles.

It was real. It was relatable. In the theater where I was, people were sobbing at this movie all around me. I think, for the first time, a lot of people who may not have previously struggled have had to confront mental health issues during COVID-19. All of a sudden, struggles that were once distant to them, felt very real. It reminded me of the way theatre kids in high school related to those struggles when they first heard and connected with the soundtrack. The music really has a way of tugging at one’s heartstrings.

Dear Evan Hansen movie vs. Broadway Show

I think a lot of the critiques about Dear Evan Hansen come from people who loved certain songs from the Broadway musical that didn’t make it to the movie. Some of them also result from the fact that it was made into a movie in the first place. Musicals can get away with certain dramatics that movies can’t. If you’re normally a fan of movie musicals, I doubt you’ll mind it.

For specifics, “Anybody Have a Map,” “Good For You,” To Break in a Glove,” and “Disappear.” from the musical have been removed from the movie. Simultaneously, the film adaptation added a song for Alana called “The Anonymous Ones,” and a song for Conner called “A Little Closer.” For the most part, the cast in the movie changes with the exception of Ben Platt as Evan. Furthermore, the plot shifts a bit, as towards the end of the musical, Evan does not reveal his lie vs. in the movie, he tells the whole world. Is that a better directorial plot? It depends on who you ask.

Why you should watch both adaptations

The discussions I’ve had about the on-screen adaptation, about mental health, and about the film’s plot have been compelling and exciting. When someone inevitably brings this movie up, I will have a lot to say about it. Plus, seeing how others react to Dear Evan Hansen made me feel connected to those around me. I was in a theater with strangers who also understood those struggles. We all had a lump in our throat as certain plot points unfolded. I only know my own story but I watched those around me connect with the film too, even if I didn’t necessarily understand why.

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The Broadway musical went on to win a Grammy award in 2018 for Best Musical Theater album. However, the movie grossed around $7 million dollars opening weekend at the box office due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Note from the editor: You can apply this logic to the on stage musical as well. Being able to see these characters in real time, share their struggles and confusing feelings can unite all audiences to come together. Live theater is a powerful thing. The music and lyrics can also have the power to bring people together to talk about these topics. Especially live theater about high school.


What others thought about Dear Evan Hansen movie

I’ve seen a lot of controversy surrounding this movie and whether or not it was a good adaptation of the musical. When there are fans, there are people with high expectations. Critics were hard on it.

Charles Bramesco of Polygon says:

“Its problems were present from the start, but in the story’s stage incarnation, they were readily ignored or forgiven. In its film incarnation, they’ve overtaken the release and eclipsed everything else. The truth is, there is moral rot at the center of Dear Evan Hansen, a story about the way one boy’s suicide gives another boy a reason to live.”

In the Vox’s review of the film, writer Alissa Wilkinson writes, “[The songs] are great power ballads by power balladeers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, a duo best known for their songwriting in Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman, and La La Land.

Trey Martin of FSUNews says:

“Although the film attracted mixed reviews, there is no denying that the messages presented within this story are incredibly impactful and important to comprehend. This film is quite the orchestra for the self-proclaimed outcasts, as the musical revolves around the realities of anxiety, depression, and even grief.”

Of course, Twitter had tons of thoughts too! I was genuinely curious as to what the internet would have to say about it.

TJ recommended fans bring the tissues.

Other fans consistently shared their stories of how the movie left theaters in tears.

Some fans even criticized the critics.

One fan said it was a perfect adaptation.

I think the general consensus of whether people will enjoy Dear Evan Hansen or not simply depends on your own experience of mental health. A lot of the critiques that I encountered prior to watching the movie in theaters had me apprehensive to see it. Some people who liked the musical hated the movie. Some people who never saw the musical loved the movie. Everyone’s take is different, but if you’re intrigued, it’s worth watching the movie instead to see for yourself how you feel about it. It’s definitely a hot conversation topic at the moment and I can’t wait to hear what my friends and family think about the on-screen adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen had its final performance of September 18, 2022. Watch the film adaptation on HBO.


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