January 24, 2021

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Was Basically The ‘Hamilton’ Of The Tonys This Year

The Tonys waved back.

“Dear Evan Hansen” was awarded Best Musical at the Tony Awards on Sunday night, surprising practically nobody, but delighting everyone.

Producer Stacey Mindich accepted the honor, highlighting in her speech the show’s central theme about wanting to belong. The cast ― including breakout star and newly minted Tony winner Ben Platt ― also performed the musical’s central number, “Waving Through a Window.”

Earlier in the evening, other “Evan Hansen” stars picked up awards: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul picked up the Tony award for Best Original Score, while Rachel Bay Jones earned one for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Steven Levenson won the Tony for Best Book, and Alex Lacamoire walked away with Best Orchestrations.

It wasn’t the total award sweep of “Hamilton: An American Musical,” which picked up 11 awards in the 2016 ceremony, but “Dear Evan Hanson” nabbed six awards by the end of the night ― the most for one production this year.

From the minds of “La La Land” songwriters Pasek and Paul, the critically acclaimed musical tells the story of a lonely teenager named Evan Hansen (Platt) struggling with severe social anxiety and the fallout of a classmate’s suicide. When Hansen is mistaken for a friend of the deceased, he becomes a viral internet sensation ― the show features a running social media feed onstage ― as he finds comfort and acceptance in the family of the student he never actually knew.

Platt has been particularly singled out among the stellar cast members for his performance, which The New York Times described as “not likely to be bettered on Broadway this season.” If the many stars who stop by his dressing room after the show is any indication, the 23-year-old previously best known for playing Benji Applebaum in the “Pitch Perfect” films has taken Broadway and Hollywood by storm with his performance, powerfully capturing the feelings of pain and isolation that come with being at teenager.

The musical has particularly struck a chord with younger theatergoers, who’ve embraced the show’s depiction of mental health issues, a topic that hasn’t been spotlighted on Broadway with such care since “Next to Normal” closed in 2011.

“When I get … the opportunity to meet fans after the show or hear from them online or via letters, they feel really comfortable divulging really personal things and opening up about their own struggles,” Platt told PBS NewsHour.

“Certainly, with anxiety and with self-harm and with inability to connect and all sorts of things. And that’s an incredibly beautiful thing, and I want nothing more than for the show to encourage that and to be able to receive things like that.”

The actor continued to spread a compassionate message onstage at the Tonys.

“The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful,” Platt told fans Sunday night.

The connection audiences feel with the source material has also made “Dear Evan Hansen” an undeniable commercial success. The Broadway cast album debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard chart, becoming the highest debut by a cast recording since “Camelot” placed at No. 4 in 1961. (That’s right, “Dear Evan Hansen” bested even “Hamilton: An American Musical” in opening album sales.)

Brace yourselves, everybody, for the next great musical phenomenon.

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