In March of 2017, Kevin and I sat down in the front row of the Music Box Theatre in New York City.  I had heard of the musical Dear Evan Hansen and knew it was impressing audiences when it played Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre. But that was the extent of what I knew.  Well, that and there was so enough buzz about it to entice me to go see it.  When tickets went on sale for the Broadway run, I bought them almost immediately.  Frankly, that's how I was able to snag front row seats for about $150 a piece.  I bought my tickets before the show and its star, Ben Platt, won Tony Awards.

Going in to the show, I hadn't heard any of the music and I didn't know much about it.  In fact, I didn't even know the story line.  I had made it a point to avoid it.  So, if you're unfamiliar, I won't give you any spoilers.  I'll just tell you what you have likely learned from hearing about the show or from seeing the official trailer for the movie release.

Evan Hansen is your rather typical high school kid struggling to deal with life at home and having an uneasy time fitting in at school. Sure, he has a handful of friends, but he just doesn't seem to know who he is or where he fits.  His mother has him seeing a therapist, who challenges him to write letters to himself to work through his emotions and issues.  Naturally, those letters begin with "Dear Evan Hansen."

It's one of those incredibly personal letters that ends up in the hands of an even more troubled classmate.  And, well, I'll leave it there and just say this.

What follows is an absolutely gut-wrenching coming-of-age story that hit me square in the face and heart.  At the end of Act One, which ends with the song "You Will Be Found", I literally couldn't breathe.  Ben Platt and the Dear Evan Hansen cast had broken my heart into pieces and, as I said to the woman sitting behind us, I was "ugly crying."  And I was.  Kevin and I were absolutely devastated by what we were witnessing and feeling.

Here's the song that concludes Act One.  Again, I present this without context of the story, but the song is powerful enough on its own.  To this day, I can't listen to it without being immediately transported to the front row at the Music Box Theatre and every emotion I felt when I heard this song performed for the first time.

THAT is the power of Dear Evan Hansen experience, which I consider a must for any fan of musical theatre.

Later this month, Evan is going even more mainstream.  The musical is hitting the big screen. And while I haven't seen the movie yet obviously, I can still vouch for the story and can't say enough about Ben Platt, who reprises his role as "Evan" for the movie version.  He was born to play Evan, wear Evan's heart on his sleeve and pour Evan's soul out of his voice.

Plus, fun fact.  If you're a country music fan, there's a interesting "country" tie to the film.  Carrie Underwood and Dan + Shay are featured on the original motion picture soundtrack.  They teamed up for a version of the song "Only Us".  If you haven't had the chance to hear it yet, here you go!  I won't spoil the details of what leads up to this song in the story, but you'll enjoy the song just the same.  It's gorgeous.

Dear Evan Hansen challenges everyone who sees it to answer these questions:

Have you ever felt like nobody was there?  Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?  Have you felt like you could disappear?  Like you could fall and no one would hear?

I am sure that somewhere, at some point in time, you have.  So, go!  Go see Dear Evan Hansen and feel free to "ugly cry".

It hits theatres nationwide September 24th.


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