‘Dear Evan Hansen’ retains strong soundtrack, misses the mark with casting

Avery Hough

In theaters since Sept. 24, “Dear Evan Hansen,” tackles themes of mental health, familial struggles and belonging. Ben Platt reprises his role as the protagonist and namesake Evan Hansen. He performed the role on Broadway for two years before ending his run in 2017. Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Wonder”) took on the directorial role of the movie. 

The film follows anxious teen Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) who writes an encouraging letter to himself on the first day of high school. Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), a fellow student, steals the letter but later commits suicide. Connor’s parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) assume that Connor wrote the letter, their son’s supposed last words, to his best friend, Evan Hansen. Trying to comfort the family, Hansen weaves a web of lies about his false friendship with their son. 

Director of cinematography Brandon Trost does an amazing job with camera work throughout the film. Chbosky’s ambitious visions came to life most during the film’s vibrant musical numbers. Most notably, the song “Sincerely, Me” stayed true to the fun energy of the Broadway version while other songs like “So Big, So Small” involved nothing of visual interest.

The soundtrack, which remained similar to the Broadway production, includes a phenomenal array of ballads and singalong tunes. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who previously produced the music for “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman,” not only wrote the original Broadway soundtrack but also perfectly adapted it for the big screen. 

The movie’s amazing soundtrack may captivate some audiences, but Broadway fans might be upset that not all of the original songs made it into the soundtrack. However, with a running time of 2 hours and 17 minutes, the film didn’t have time to fit the songs it missed.  

While most of the award-winning cast portrayed their characters well, the film failed to cast a believable main character. Platt, although the original Hansen on Broadway, at the age of 28, appears far detached from his high school days. His portrayal of a 17-year-old fails, especially compared to co-stars Kaitlyn Dever and Amandla Stenberg. He looked consistently out of place next to the rest of the actors despite the overt makeup attempts to make him look younger. While Platt gave a great performance emotionally and vocally, he remains a questionable casting decision. 

The film adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen” may have beautiful cinematography and captivating sound design, but the message and believability do not come across as clearly on a movie screen as they do on a Broadway stage.

3 blue-striped polos and white casts out of 5