Dear Evan Hansen is pretty much Broadway’s darling right now — it just snagged a whopping six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Ben Platt stars as Evan Hansen, a socially anxious teen about to achieve what he’s always wanted: to fit in. When he fabricates a story about a classmate, he quickly finds himself flush with attention from his peers, but in far over his head.
The musical first premiered at D.C.’s Arena Stage in July of 2015, moved Off Broadway in March 2016, and came to Broadway proper this December. In its nearly two-year run, it’s won over a broad fan base that cuts across all age groups, from pre-teens to grandparents. In the video above, several fans showcase their renditions of “Waving Through a Window,” one of the show’s hits through which Evan channels heartbreaking feelings of isolation. We chatted with a few of those featured on just why Dear Evan Hansen means so much to them – and on such a personal level.
Daniel Pellegrini, age 12, Rye, New York [appears at 1:07]
Daniel made headlines when he bravely performed “Waving Through a Window” at a local talent show. Daniel’s mom, Laura, shares the backstory: “Daniel was having some issues at school with bullying. Like many pre-teens, he was finding it very difficult to verbally explain to us how he was feeling. Until he found this song … As soon as I listened to the words Ben [Platt] was singing, I knew Daniel was trying to tell me something.”
Daniel explains why the lyrics in particular mean so much to him: “‘I’ve learned to slam on the brake/Before I even turn the key’” is like saying ” I’ve learned to stop before I even start,” says Daniel. “‘On the outside always looking in/Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass’” is saying “I’m here, can anyone see me? Can anyone hear me? Does anyone want to talk back to me?”
“It’s really inspiring for people who get bullied, feel different, or feel alone,” he continues.
“I think the show helps others who may be having the same feelings, help them not to feel so alone,” says Daniel when asked how the show can help others. “This show has changed his life,” attests Laura.
Cammi McDermott, age 17, Washington, D.C. [appears at 1:29]
Cammi McDermott is a YouTuber and aspiring musician – she plans on releasing an EP soon. Her rendition of “Waving Through a Window” even caught the attention of the show’s songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Cammi tells us why the show resonates so deeply with her: “Dear Evan Hansen is a show with a message that everyone relates to in their own way. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety, and to see it portrayed in such a raw, unfiltered way was not only inspiring, but comforting … I’ve been doing musical theatre and writing my own music for several years, so seeing it presented in this way makes it easy to digest while still confronting topics that can be hard to comprehend.”
“The show has definitely made me feel less alone,” she continues. “This show has connected me to other people who have dealt with similar issues and also made it easier for me to talk about these issues to those who might not have understood before … It shows mental health in a way that doesn’t romanticize it, but also doesn’t demonize it.”
David Rowen, age 27, New York, New York [appears at 0:21]
David Rowen is an actor and musician currently based in New York. David happened to be living in D.C. in 2015 when Dear Evan Hansen first premiered, and the show deeply impressed him. He went on to create a gorgeous cover of “Waving Through a Window” on his YouTube channel alongside two friends.
“Aside from the incredible music, I believe that the messages and themes of the Dear Evan Hansen story are incredibly relevant and moving,” he says. “I think people of many ages can relate to feeling alone and isolated, even when they’re constantly surrounded by people. I think everybody has a desire to make a difference and be remembered. And I’m sure parents understand the struggle of reaching their children at such a vulnerable time in their development.”
Alexa Salotti, age 18, New York [appears at 0:44]
Alexa Salotti has been on the Dear Evan Hansen trail since before it even premiered. When it was announced that Ben Platt would be playing the musical’s title role (she’d been following him since Pitch Perfect), she made sure to snag tickets, road-tripping to D.C. with her mom and aunt. Alexa has since seen the show four more times, and considers herself a super-fan, or “Fansen,” as she calls it.
Dear Evan Hansen has even inspired the high school senior’s next move. “I’ve decided once I graduate high school and begin college this August, I’ll be working my way up to a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. The show has made me realize that I want to spend my life as a therapist helping children and teens … I want to show them that ‘you are you and that’s enough, so keep going until you see the sun.’”
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