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Dear Evan Hansen: the Life, Legacy, & Best Teen Learning Opportunities of the Broadway Musical

Culture

September 18th was the final Broadway performance of the award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen, marking the end of its nearly six years on the Broadway stage that originally began on December 4, 2016. This impressive Broadway tenure was completed from start to finish at the Music Box Theater, a historic venue that is located between Broadway and 8th Avenue and has seen a wide variety of past productions since its opening on September 22, 1921.

In fact, through all of these decades, Dear Evan Hansen has become the theater’s longest-running production (and one of Broadway’s top 50 longest-running productions) with 1,678 regular shows and over 1.5 million audience members under its esteemed belt.

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Indeed, the musical is impressive not only for the number of shows it has put forth, but also for the artistic landmarks, awards, and impacts it has achieved along the way. Specifically, the incredibly powerful Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast Recording has garnered more than 899 million streams and won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2018.

In addition, the production became the star of the 2017 Tony Awards when it won six major honors: Best Musical, Best Featured Actress - Rachel Bay Jones, Best Orchestrations - Alex Lacamoire, Best Book of a Musical - Steven Levenson, Best Original Score - Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman, La La Land, and more), and Best Actor - Ben Platt.

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On that night in 2017, the New York Times Tony Award Briefing article could not stop singing the praises of Dear Evan Hansen, describing it as “a daringly unflinching exploration of loss, lies and loneliness in a high school community,” a “challenging and cathartic show,” “intentionally, insistently intimate,” “wholly original,” and “one of the first shows on Broadway to integrate social media into its depiction of communication and community.”

Broadway Retirement

So, with all of these accolades and critical acclaim, as well as its long-term success, why did Dear Evan Hansen close on Broadway this year? Well, five and a half years after its Tony Awards piece, the New York Times covered this very question in its farewell article for the musical that featured an exit interview with the last Broadway Evan Hansen, Sam Primack, as well as a quote from an American Theatre article written by the show’s lead producer, Stacey Mindich.

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In that referenced American Theatre piece, published two days before the production’s closure, Mindich openly reflects on her journey with Dear Evan Hansen - from first hearing the pitch for the musical and realizing how its authentic familiarity and relatability resonated with her own experiences as a mother and ultimately overpowered her doubts about the concept and its potential for success, to the debut of the show, the positive and heartfelt audience reactions to the flawed, but representative teen characters, and the responsibility the cast and crew felt to partner with mental health organizations and provide real support to young people who reached out for help after seeing the production.

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Inevitably, her story reaches the “COVID Chapter” and she candidly explains how the pandemic “devastated theatre, and ultimately our beautiful musical,” and how...

“though we at DEH joyfully reopened after almost two years of being dark last December, we never truly rebounded. And I’d like to blame it on COVID, I really would. But perhaps our story was too emotional for these already difficult times. Perhaps the poorly reviewed film of the same name diminished our audience. Perhaps it was just our time.”

Mindich’s article is a great read, and she does an admirable job of bringing up and recognizing the effects of the film version of Dear Evan Hansen, which garnered quite a lot of backlash and controversy for its unpopular adaptation that many felt did a great disservice to the musical.

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Whether it was that movie or the pandemic or the show’s taxing emotional storyline or a combination of all three of Mindich's theories, the end result was the same.

The historic production carried out its last Broadway performance in September with a talented cast that included none other than Stranger Things’ Gaten Matarazzo in the role of Jared - a celebrity casting choice that reflects a broader history of stars and famous figures being intertwined with the show and finding just as much joy and meaning in its story and music as the next person. In fact, Broadway World reports that Beyonce, Zendaya, Steven Spielburg, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, and President Biden have all traveled to the Music Box Theater to bear witness to Evan Hansen and his dynamic journey with loneliness, love, dishonesty, self-acceptance, and personal evolution and growth.

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Personal Connections

I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have also been present for the breathtaking Broadway portrayal of Evan’s on-stage odyssey, having been fortunate enough to see Dear Evan Hansen in the Music Box theater for my very first time on Broadway over this past spring break.

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To attempt to summarize my abounding feelings, I can only say that I was absolutely blown away by the production quality, compelling storyline showcasing mental health and the teenage experience, and the thrill of witnessing an unbelievably talented group of people perform right in front of me in such an intimate venue.

I still remember the heart-wrenching impact of the scene in which Evan transitions into his famous “You Will Be Found” song - he is curled up and broken down on the floor, hyperventilating into a prolonged and agonizing silence after being overwhelmed by the pressure to speak at a school assembly for Connor. Our Evan was performed by Ben Levi Ross, who was absolutely outstanding in this and all scenes (he was also in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick... Boom! film), and you can learn more about his Dear Evan Hansen experiences here.

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After seeing the musical, I thought of my father and his takeaway rule - that after you write a paper, give a presentation, or send an email, your audience should be able to walk away with clear points that they will remember moving forward about your argument, application, etc.

In that vein, and to honor the musical’s last year on Broadway and to highlight its powerful themes of self-love, self-acceptance, and having healthy relationships with others and yourself, here are five takeaways from Dear Evan Hansen for teenagers - straight from the plot, musical lyrics, and character development highlighted in the show. Enjoy!

*Spoiler Alert: Please note that the article will contain references to major themes and plot points, so read with intention. Also, if you would like to refresh your knowledge of Dear Evan Hansen before continuing, this article from The Musical Lyrics has a great production synopsis.*

1. Be Honest with Others & Yourself

From the Show:

One of the most central and influential themes in the musical involves a vivid exploration into Evan’s dishonesty - both with the world and with himself. The driving force of the plot is the lie that Evan tells about his friendship with Connor - a lie that spirals out of control as he becomes increasingly involved in the lives of Connor’s grieving family members and prominent on social media for his mental health efforts in Connor’s name.

It is this fundamental deception and manipulation that forces Evan to bear the distinction of an anti-hero, of a deeply flawed protagonist whose unsavory actions for complicated reasons either push audience members away from the show or hold valuable lessons about growth, redemption, and imperfection for those willing to stay the course with Evan and see him through to his resolution as a character.

Indeed, all of the lies and secrets come to a head in the poignant “Words Fail,” the song when Evan tries to apologize for his deeds, explain his desire to fill in the gaps of his own life with Connor’s seemingly perfect family, and come to terms with the underlying truth at the heart of his “sad invention” and everything he had done: all this time, he was hiding from himself and trying to avoid confronting his own messiness and brokenness.

But, there is still hope for Evan. Despite all of his mistakes and all that he has to face within himself and with the people he hurt, he ends his ballad with an honest acknowledgement and a powerful question:

“Will I just keep on running away from what's true?

All I ever do is run

So how do I step in

Step into the sun?”

With these words, Evan is choosing honesty and finding the strength to bring his struggles into the light where he can finally face them and begin to overcome them.

One interesting thing to note is that the concept of honesty is also explored in Connor’s family, who act as a foil to Evan’s deception in the wake of Connors’ death when they openly navigate their grief and the unique forms it takes rather than suppress or hide from it. This is captured in the song “Requiem,” a beautiful piece in which each family member grapples with their feelings in the wake of Connor taking his own life. Zoe, Connor’s sister, comes to understand that she holds more anger and resentment than sadness and grief for her brother and questions why she must play a certain part in her family’s new reality. She sings,

“So, don't tell me that I didn't have it right

Don't tell me that it wasn't black and white

After all you put me through

Don't say it wasn't true

That you were not the monster

That I knew

'Cause I cannot play the grieving girl and lie

Saying that I miss you

And that my world has gone dark

I will sing no requiem”

Though it is difficult to hear of her tense sibling relationship, Zoe does not shy away from her true feelings - she faces them head on and rejects the notion that she needs to put her grief into the expected boxes and compartments. She chooses honesty from the beginning and is unafraid to process and engage with her genuine self and journey through her own experiences.

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Teen Takeaways:

That is the heart of what this theme of the musical means for teens - an encouragement to be your genuine self. High school and college applications are definitely stressful parts of life for many teens, and one of my biggest pieces of advice as a senior is to be honest with yourself and your goals from the beginning.

Set your eyes on a standard that is meaningful for you in terms of your grades and college aspirations, and try to build a long-term plan and do what it takes to meet those targets. At this stage of life, time is a precious commodity, so invest your time in the activities, extracurriculars, study systems, college prep programs, etc that will set you on a trajectory to achieve your unique goals for the future.

With your big objectives and ambitions mapped out, remember to keep this truth in mind: high school is a time to explore your passions, follow your interests into new endeavors and opportunities, and be open to the evolution and maturation that is inherent to growing up. Check in with yourself and be honest about what you enjoy, what matters to you, what you want to try, what you are curious about, and how you are feeling.

High school is definitely full of pressure and stress from many different sources, so it is important to check in with your emotional and mental health, find outlets in exercise, creativity, community, service, or whatever else brings you joy, and work to preserve a balance between work and fun.

At the end of the day, life looks different for everyone on many levels and from many angles. Try not to compare yourself with other people, stay true to who you are and what you want now and in the future, and just do your best every day.

On the important topic of mental health, DoSomething.org has an excellent resource guide with insight and advice on self-care, identifying emotions and stressors, having meaningful dialogue with family and friends, finding support through a variety of organizations, and helping others. It’s a great toolkit - check it out here!

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2. Don’t Take the People in Your Life for Granted

From the Show:

Dear Evan Hansen does an excellent job of showcasing relationships between people in both positive and negative lights, honoring the complexity of human interaction that exists in real life, especially for teenagers. Throughout most of the show, Evan consistently presents an unfavorable picture as it pertains to how he treats the friends and family around him. Thanks in large part to his lie and his efforts to maintain it at all costs, Evan ends up using, manipulating, and neglecting the people in his life as he becomes consumed with his own fabricated reality and reaps the benefits of his deception.

Ultimately, he distances himself from his mother, Heidi, by spending more and more time with Connor’s family. He pushes Jared away by disregarding their friendship unless he needs more help with his doctored emails, and he upsets Alana by becoming increasingly less invested in the Connor Project that they were supposed to run together.

All of this anger and frustration builds and builds and explodes in the song, “Good For You,” a spiteful collision of emotion in which Heidi, Jared, and Alana all express their grievances with Evan, expose how he has hurt them all, and draw the line at his behavior. They sing,

“And you say what you need to say

And you play who you need to play

And if somebody's in your way

Crush them and leave them behind

Well I guess if I'm not of use

Go ahead, you can cut me loose

Go ahead now, I won't mind

I'll shut my mouth and I'll let you go

Is that good for you?

Would that be good for you, you, you?

I'll just sit back while you run the show

Is that good for you?”

When listening to these verses, one hears the people in Evan’s life tell him that he is on his own, that he has isolated himself with his own self-centered actions. And this is exactly how Evan feels at this point in the musical when the cracks in his lie are spreading out of control and everything seems to be falling apart as his house of cards crumbles and he faces a tough reality in its wake.

In this moment of hopelessness and pain for Evan, we see the beautiful side of relationships shine through.

We see Evan’s mother take center stage and proclaim her unconditional love for her child in the song “So Big / So Small.” In this melody, Heidi connects the past, present, and future by recalling the day that Evan’s father left their family and she was forced to calm her own fears, accept her new role as a single mother, and comfort Evan’s worries that she would abandon him, too. With that anecdote, she explains how she committed to remaining by her son’s side on that day and that nothing has changed since. She tells Evan,

“But like that February day

I will take your hand, squeeze it tightly and say

There's not another truck in the driveway

Your mom isn't going anywhere

Your mom is staying right here

Your mom isn't going anywhere

Your mom is staying right here

No matter what

I'll be here”

With Evan’s truth out in the open, he faces a difficult upward climb, personal reckoning, and return to reality, but Heidi makes sure that he is not alone and he knows that she will be there to love and support him through it all.

Teen Takeaways:

Here, the main message for teens is that positive relationships and support systems are incredibly important to one’s life and wellbeing, and feeling connected to other people in some way - whether it’s through family, friends, mentors, cultural communities, religious groups, or other social spaces - is a powerful lifeline for the ups and downs of growing up.

Relationships and social connections are unique to each person and their experiences, but we can all take Dear Evan Hansen as an inspiration to appreciate the people in our lives - whoever they may be (teachers, peers, teammates, parents, siblings…) - who support us with their friendship, advice, encouragement, kindness, inclusion, laughter, and perspectives.

Especially around the holiday season, it is important to reach out and show our thankfulness for those special people so that they know that their presence is not taken for granted, but greatly loved and appreciated. I know that this may sound cliche, but sending a nice text, sharing a moment over a call, or finding time to meet up with someone can be really meaningful for all involved.

It is also equally important to recognize that loneliness and feelings of isolation are genuine realities that can be compounded during this time of year as well, and this is something that Dear Evan Hansen tackles firsthand. In fact, the production partnered with The LessLonely Project to raise awareness, offer support, and provide valuable resources, which you can find here.

Our own Teen Magazine writers have also published several articles with friendship tips in general and in college, and this VeryWell Mind article also shares some great suggestions like pursuing new hobbies, volunteering, finding online communities with shared interests, and practicing self-care. Remember - you are amazing, and you are never alone!

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3. Don’t Give Up

From the Show:

In the thick of the musical and Evan’s endearment to Connor’s family, he shares a meaningful moment with Connor’s father, Larry, who imparts some heartfelt advice regarding commitment and the value of determination over time. This scene is captured in the song “To Break In a Glove” because Larry’s larger points about never giving up are all framed around his personal method of using shaving cream and rubber bands to break in a new baseball glove over the course of a week, which requires more consistency and devotion than other common methods.

As Larry explains his process and stresses that all of the hard work pays off, his song takes a sadder turn as the lyrics begin to evolve in true Dear Evan Hansen fashion so that the character’s true thoughts and feelings are revealed to the audience. At this moment, Larry is actually processing his grief over Connor’s death and his feelings that he should have worked harder to help his son. But in the end, Evan is able to comfort Larry and reassure him that Connor was lucky to have such an invested father who cared so deeply about him. In the duet, Larry sings,

“It just takes a little patience

Takes a little time

Takes a little time

A little perseverance

Perseverance

And a little uphill climb

Keep that grit

Follow through

Even when everyone around you thinks you're crazy

Even when everyone around you lets things go

And whether you're prepping for some test

Or you're miles from some goal

Or you're just trying to do what's best

For a kid who's lost control

You do the hard thing

'Cause that's the right thing

Yeah, that's the right thing”

Teen Takeaways:

“Never give up” is a simple phrase with a lot of meaning packed behind it, and Larry’s song honors this complexity by mentioning several different areas of life in which such a mindset is essential (academics, personal goals, etc.). At the heart of it all, this takeaway comes down to the importance of perseverance and a sense of relentless determination to keep going and follow through in the face of obstacles, peer pressure, self-doubt, hopelessness, or whatever else stands in the way of your goals.

Academically speaking, high school requires immense dedication and mental stamina to navigate long months of scholastic grind, seemingly endless cycles of homework and exams, periods of burnout, and eventually, feelings of senioritis. As someone who is approaching the end of this academic journey, I can tell you that no matter how difficult a season of life is, the end of the trimester/semester/year eventually does come around without fail and all of the stress, assignments, and workload will taper off in time for your well-deserved breaks throughout the year.

So, keep going and trust the process, knowing that there will be ebbs and flows of academic intensity that you are capable of conquering and working through as you progress to graduation.

And in terms of burnout, that is definitely a real and difficult experience that can make it feel impossible to tackle any more papers, study for any more tests, or sit through one more class period. After my junior year spring of AP Exams, finals, and semester projects, I dealt with a summer of burnout that took several weeks into senior year to work through enough to get back into the swing of things and reset my mental motivation.

From my experiences, I can tell you that it does get better and it is important to be kind to yourself, find small moments of joy, organize your to-do list, and keep taking everything one step at a time.

This article from UPchieve, which is an academic support service committed to higher education access and equality, has several excellent tips for working through difficult times of student burnout and coming out on the other side with greater resilience and additional resources in your toolkit for staying on top of self-care and emotional well-being. They also have plenty of other academic support resources on their Instagram for everything from study techniques and test anxiety to goal setting and college applications, so check them out here!

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All of these academic takeaways apply to every other area of life as well - whether you are facing challenges and frustration in athletics, performing arts, employment, social relationships, or mental health, believe in your capability to persevere, go easy on yourself, remember to be your biggest ally, find manageable victories and moments of light, take it one day at a time, seek out resources, ask for help, and never give up.

Sometimes, a favorite song, funny video with someone sharing similar experiences, organization with helpful advice, conversation with a loved one, or a moment outside in nature can do wonders in boosting your mood, infusing you with energy, giving you needed perspective, and encouraging you to keep going.

If Evan Hansen’s story taught me anything, it was that there is indeed light at the end of dark tunnels - his journey through loneliness, lies, regret, and redemption is shining encouragement to persevere through difficult times and believe in the possibilities for learning, growth, maturation, and strength that come with each new day.

4. Love Yourself So You Can Be Yourself

From the Show:

Up to this point in the article, we’ve explored Evan’s experiences after his lie about his friendship with Connor and what can be learned from his ensuing journey and life lessons. But, what about before any of that ever happens? Well, one of the most well-known and compelling parts of the show comes from Evan’s first song - his musical introduction to the world that establishes his troubled state of mind and well-being when we first meet him at the beginning of the school year.

This song is “Waving Through A Window,” an earnest ode to anyone who feels disconnected from other people, like an outsider or an outcast observer to life rather than an active participant who believes they are included and welcomed into its social folds.

Also, I simply cannot write the word “outcast” without immediately thinking of Stranger Things and how executive producer/director Shawn Levy described the series as “an anthem to the outcasts,” saying,

“everyone knows what it is to feel on the outside looking in. And Stranger Things in many ways is about the ensemble of characters who share that experience. It’s about the struggles, but also the strength that comes from struggles.”

That sentiment is truly at the foundation of Dear Evan Hansen, in fact, Evan himself sings in “Waving Through A Window”:

“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

I'm waving through a window”

All of this makes Gaten Matarazzo's role in the show’s final cast such a perfect choice that created the Stranger Things/Dear Evan Hansen crossover that I never knew I needed. For Evan, “Waving Through A Window” is a vehicle by which he is able to vocalize his paralyzing self-doubt and lack of self-confidence, and describe his fear of failure and of making a mistake. He eloquently explains his tendency to limit and control how he presents himself to the world because he has learned that it is safer to remain on the outside and on the margins of social interaction where he might avoid an onslaught of potential judgment, ridicule, or rejection. To this point, he sings,

“I've learned to slam on the brake

Before I even turn the key

Before I make the mistake

Before I lead with the worst of me”

Evan’s feeling of disconnection and fear is a common thread throughout the entirety of the musical, and it culminates in “Words Fail” - not only a song of regret, repentance, and a commitment to facing the truth, but also one of deep character development and further exploration into how Evan’s point of view is established in “Waving Through A Window.” In “Words Fail,” he belts out,

“'Cause I've learned to slam on the brake

Before I even turn the key

Before I make the mistake

Before I lead with the worst of me

I never let them see the worst of me

'Cause what if everyone saw?

What if everyone knew?

Would they like what they saw?

Or would they hate it too?”

These words dig deeper into why Evan is so riddled with self-doubt and fear of judgment and making a mistake - he does not want to give other people a chance to see him and dislike him because he already harbors a great deal of animosity and dislike towards himself.

Sitting in the Music Box Theater as a captive audience member for this song, I found Ben Levi Ross’ delivery of these verses to be one of the most heartbreaking revelations of the entire musical. With their utterance, the depths of Evan’s pain are put on display with striking clarity as he finally comes to terms with the root of so many of his problems and inner turmoils: a lack of self-love and self-acceptance.

Hitting this point of realization allows him to understand this monster that has been chasing him toward his recent deceitful decisions and he can finally find the strength to face it. Indeed, one year after opening up to his mother and Connor’s family about his lie, he has matured and reached a point where he can deliver the “Finale” song and proudly proclaim in a beautiful full-circle moment,

“Dear Evan Hansen

Today is going to be a good day

And here's why, because today, today at least you're you and that's enough”

Although the audience does not get to see Evan’s journey to greater self-acceptance on stage, we do get to see that he is in a much better place mentally and emotionally at the end of the production and that he has grown immensely in the appreciation and love that he holds for leading life as his authentic self.

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Teen Takeaways:

For this takeaway, I think that the themes and messages of Dear Evan Hansen truly speak for themselves and drive home again and again the importance of being kind to yourself and seeing your own beauty, power, potential, room for growth, achievement, uniqueness, and inherent worth.

The musical is a chronicle of a young man learning how to love himself in entirety - for all of his strengths, passions, and accomplishments, as well as for all of his weaknesses, imperfections, and struggles.

Perhaps it is a tale of a thousand platitudes - being kind to others and yourself, doing your best, never giving up, and feeling comfortable in your own skin - but that doesn’t make those ideas any less essential.

And Evan’s story is so much deeper than that; in fact, I found that it charters a course of nuance and explores the dual reality that support systems are invaluable to young people and we should make sure that we appreciate and show love to the friends and loved ones in our lives, while at the same time, it is necessary for teenagers to understand that we also need to show love to ourselves and that validation should not come exclusively from external sources of feedback like popularity, relationships, or social media.

Fundamentally, an underlying sense of well-being and peace comes from a healthy relationship with one’s self that empowers them to overcome obstacles, pursue goals, and embrace each day from a place of self-love, self-advocacy, and authenticity.

But, of course, that is a concept that is much easier said than done. It is something that I am definitely working on everyday, but it is not something that I nor anyone else must work towards alone as there are a variety of experts and resources on this very topic of self-love and self-care.

I personally put these ideas into practice by listening to uplifting, energizing music from my favorite artists (Lizzo is a great choice in this area), being intentional about leading with confidence and self-assurance in moments of anxiety, and taking time before bed to recognize the day’s accomplishments big and small (whether it’s finishing a paper, making it through a difficult soccer practice, or making progress on a big project) and giving myself permission to enjoy my sleep.

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This article from Healthline has several other tips for self-love and this one from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation dives into what self-love actually means and what it looks like in real life. Self Space (a UK mental health service) also has an excellent article that relates to the themes of Dear Evan Hansen and explores the connections between self-love and self-esteem, saying that they both relate to “our ability to see ourselves as flawed, imperfect individuals and still hold ourselves in high regard.”

Finally, LifeHack also provides an extensive list of recommendations, such as meditation, stress management, healthy eating, exercise, love for your body, and rejecting society’s harmful standards and the tendency to compare yourself to others.

As Ben Platt articulated these ideas in his 2017 Tonys acceptance speech,

“To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

5. You Still Matter & You Will Be Okay

From the Show:

As we round the bend to our final takeaway, I want to use this space to highlight two of the musical’s other notable songs that both involve characters working to foster a sense of positivity and conviction to take care of each other and combat loneliness and hopelessness. The first song, “Disappear,” captures the birth of the Connor Project and features Evan, Connor, Jared, Alana, and Connor’s family as they discuss the importance of remembrance, inclusion, and visibility - not just for Connor, but for everyone who feels outcast and abandoned. They sing the powerful words,

“No one deserves to be forgotten

No one deserves to fade away

No one should come and go

And have no one know he was ever even here

No one deserves to disappear”

And as Evan and Connor are deciding that something must be done to maintain Connor’s memory, they repeat a phrase again and again: you still matter.

They say that “even if you've always been that barely-in-the-background kind of guy, you still matter and “even if you're somebody who can't escape the feeling that the world's passed you by, you still matter and “if you never get around to doing some remarkable thing that doesn't mean that you're not worth remembering.”

In the very next song, the Connor Project has its official launch at a school assembly in which Evan is supposed to speak as Connor’s best friend. After he is overcome with emotion and anxiety, he stands up, faces his community, and delivers an awe-inspiring address of hope and togetherness that goes viral for its impact. This address is contained in the acclaimed Dear Evan Hansen song “You Will Be Found,” which proclaims the lyrics,

“Well, let that lonely feeling wash away

Maybe there's a reason to believe you'll be okay

'Cause when you don't feel strong enough to stand

You can reach, reach out your hand”

“So let the sun come streaming in

'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again

If you only look around

You will be found (You will be found)

You will be found (You will be found)

You will be found

Out of the shadows

The morning is breaking

And all is new, all is new

It's filling up the empty

And suddenly I see that

All is new, all is new

You are not alone

You are not alone”

Teen Takeaways:

I love both of these songs because they have deep undercurrents of pain, but ultimately feel triumphant and empowering in their exclamations of hope against the odds and despite difficulties. In particular, “You Will Be Found” is a musical achievement that resonates with real human experiences and the challenge of overcoming various obstacles and setbacks, and offers audiences stirring words of comfort and support.

To hear phrases like “you are not alone,” “you will be found,” “you’ll rise again,” “reach out your hand,” and “there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay” and be able to sing them with all of your soul alongside a diverse cast of characters is such an extraordinary gift that Dear Evan Hansen is able to bring to the world.

So, this message is really about taking those phrases to heart, letting them sink in, and keeping them at the forefront of your mind as you encounter adversities and stresses throughout your life.

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And in “Disappear,” again and again the characters affirm a person’s innate worth and dignity and importance, regardless of their social standing, self-doubt, or what they have accomplished. This is such an incredibly beautiful declaration of truth - a message of hope that can be found across religious, psychology, and meditation/wellness circles.

Indeed, this article from PsychCentral provides an in-depth look at the idea of inherent self-worth and how it is

“the value you have by virtue of being you. We are no better or worse than one another in this regard. Your worth always exists, no matter your income, vacations, relationship status, number of friends, religious or political orientation, or waistline.”

Mindfulness and meditation hub Headspace concurs with this definition and has their own article in which they discuss that

“realizing our worth happens when we understand that our value operates independently from the external ups and downs of life.”

Among many other things, this is an excellent area of understanding that is at the heart of Dear Evan Hansen and that is reinforced every time the words “you still matter” are spoken into existence. Because they remain real and true no matter what else is happening - you can always find courage, tenacity, and hope in the unending knowledge that you are valuable and worthy of life, love, joy, kindness, respect, growth, and every new day that comes your way.

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Conclusion

Dear Evan Hansen is a musical balancing act that juggles multiple themes and nuances all at once - it is a story that urges young people to recognize, fight for, and maintain their sense of self and to love and appreciate their individuality, imperfection, and innate beauty and dignity.

It is also a story that uses Evan’s mistakes and deception to stress the importance of not only being kind to yourself, but to the people around you and to choose honesty and authenticity, live with actionable gratitude for your friends and loved ones, lift up and include people who are marginalized and outcast, and seek out connections and a sense of togetherness.

It is a production that seeks to disrupt cycles of isolation and mental health stigma with its very existence so that people of all ages can enjoy an art form that provides hope, awareness, solidarity, and a built-in space of community and light. And somehow, it is a show that has managed to simultaneously do all of that for so many people.

As a fan myself, I have tried to capture this complexity and highlight some of the major messages and themes that are most applicable to teens and their academics, extracurriculars, social relationships, and personal well-being.

So, if you are a fellow fan of the production or were inspired to learn more or even see the show for yourself, the good news is that although Dear Evan Hansen has closed its Broadway and London showings, it is still touring across North America and has tickets available in a variety of states! Click here to find more information and thanks for reading! Happy holidays!

Final Note

Dear Evan Hansen is a production with prominent themes of mental health, self-harm, and suicide. Contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

  • Call or text 988
  • Chat at 988lifeline.org
  • Connect with a trained crisis counselor. 988 is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365.
  • Visit the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for more information at 988lifeline.org.

Alexis Jones
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Alexis Jones is a senior in high school from Southern California. She has been an aspiring author and storyteller since she was five years old and enjoys developing these interests through her role as the president of the journalism program at her school and as a writer for The Teen Magazine. In addition to her job as a full time nerd and overachiever, Alexis can be found singing along to Broadway songs, quoting Schitt's Creek, exploring new restaurants as a verified foodie, playing on the varsity soccer team, spending her days off at Disneyland, and living as a lifelong learner passionate about social justice, equity, and liberation.