Anybody have a map

The new ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ movie fails to live up to the legacy of the original broadway show

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Broadway World

The ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ movie was released to theaters on Sept. 24.

Bethany Mann, Staff Writer

I think it’s safe to say that I’m no stranger to the six-time Tony award-winning Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” From listening to the soundtrack in 2018 to reading the novelization when I was 12, and eventually seeing the musical live when I was 13, it would be an understatement to say that I’m a bit of a fan. The musical’s album cover was painted on the back of my identification card last school year, and I even have a sticker for the show currently in my phone case.

However, after watching the new movie adaptation, I’m questioning whether “Dear Evan Hansen” will be my answer when asked what my favorite musical is.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is the story of Evan Hansen, a senior in high school who struggles with social anxiety and depression. His therapist tasks him with writing a letter to himself everyday titled ‘Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day and here’s why.’  Evan writes a letter at school detailing his feelings for his classmate, Zoe Murphy, but when he prints it out, Zoe’s older brother, outcast Connor Murphy, finds the letter and becomes enraged with Evan, taking the letter as he leaves the scene. It is revealed later that Connor took his own life that night, leading his parents to find Evan’s letter in Connor’s jacket pocket, giving them the impression that Evan and Connor were friends. When the Murphy’s confronted Evan about it, he did not have the heart to tell them no as he was longing for a friend himself. Evan has now convinced Connor’s family and everyone else that he and Connor were secret friends.

One of the biggest flaws in “Dear Evan Hansen” is Evan’s character. Throughout the musical, Evan gaslights every person in his life and uses the emotional trauma of a grieving family for his own personal gain, but the broadway show makes it work by fully developing each of its characters. The movie, however, does not. 

The film cuts four songs from the original musical in its adaptation: “Anybody Have A Map,” “Disappear,” “To Break In A Glove,” and “Good For You.” The song “Anybody Have A Map” is a duet between Evan and Connor’s moms, singing about the difficulties of parenting. The song opens the musical and introduces the audience to the dynamics of the Hansen and the Murphy families. Without “Anybody Have A Map,” the movie opens with the song “Waving Through A Window,” leaving the audience to put the pieces together themselves. This change leaves confusion for people who are not already familiar with the musical.

The songs “Disappear” and “Good For You” both act as catalysts in the story. “Disappear” is sung by Evan and Connor. The song elaborates on Evan and his anxiety, explaining how he doesn’t want to disappear in the background anymore and wants to make sure Connor is not forgotten. By taking away “Disappear,” the reasoning for Evan’s actions is not explained, painting Evan as the villain in his own story. “Good For You” is sung by three different characters, led by Heidi, Evan’s mom, and shows the aftermath of Evan’s actions. Without it, Evan’s exploitation of the Murphy’s is excused, giving off the message that you can be a horrible person without any consequences.

The main critic I have seen of the “Dear Evan Hansen” movie, mainly on TikTok and other social media platforms, is Ben Platt’s age. The film was shot during the fall of 2020 when he was 27. Having a 27-year-old play a teenager is not uncommon in Hollywood, but they usually do not look 38 like Ben Platt does, or have a father who is producing the movie you are starring in.

As a recovering theater kid, I want to defend Ben Platt, but I can’t. I understand that he originated the role, but it’s been five years since he was on Broadway, it’s time to pass the torch. Andrew Barth Feldman, a previous Evan Hansen who is currently 19 and was 18 at the time of filming, would have been perfect for the role. I’m so upset that I did not get to see him on the big screen. Now this is nothing against Ben Platt, his performance was phenomenal, but the movie was so awkward to watch. Evan was clearly not 17.

The movie does somewhat save itself in the end, though. Evan takes it upon himself to look at old yearbooks and social media posts to gather all the information he can about Connor. He ends up reading all of Connor’s favorite books and gets in contact with an old friend of Connor’s from rehab. This scene results in the new song “A Little Closer,” the replacement for “Good For You.” As mad as I am about “Good For You” being cut, I do really enjoy the new song. This plotline is the movie’s way of incorporating the “Dear Evan Hansen” book. In the musical, Evan never reaches out to Connor’s old friends, that only happens in the novelization.

I will openly admit that when Colton Ryan, the actor for Connor Murphy, was singing “A Little Closer,” I was on the verge of tears, but it still doesn’t compare to the musical. When I saw “Dear Evan Hansen” live, I don’t think I ever stopped sobbing, not even during intermission. 

This new song still doesn’t make up for what Evan did. I feel like in the show, they recognize Evan’s flaws, but without the incorporation of the songs “Disappear” and “Good For You,” they take away the human aspect of Evan’s character and try to paint him as a saint.

Even with all these issues, I still enjoyed the movie. I just wish things were done differently, but sadly, I’m not the creative director of the film. For now, I will hold on to the hope that a professional shot of the “Dear Evan Hansen” Broadway production, similar to “Hamilton” and “Newsies” is released to the public; maybe even one with Jordan Fisher as Evan Hansen.

Though the “Dear Evan Hansen” movie fell short in its overall production, the message still stands–you will be found.