DEAR EVAN HANSEN – Review by Susan Granger

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Some Broadway shows transfer admirably to the big screen. Others don’t. Actor Ben Platt won plaudits for playing the titular teenager in this coming-of-age musical, but now he’s 27 and not quite as believable as an angst-riddled high-schooler.

Opening with Waving Through a Window, the story revolves around depressed Evan Hansen (Platt), struggling through the first day of his senior year. At his therapist’s insistence, he’s written a reassuring letter to himself that’s stolen by a bullying classmate Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) and, later, found in drug-addicted Connor’s pocket after he commits suicide.

Naturally, everyone thinks Connor has written it to his only friend Evan. Socially anxious and insecure Evan goes along with the charade, ostensibly to help Connor’s grieving parents, Cynthia (Amy Adams) and Larry (Danny Pinto,) and guitar-playing sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) on whom Evan has a secret crush.

But then Evan deviously asks Jared (Nik Dodani) to create a fake email correspondence to cruelly cement Evan’s relationship with Connor, referring to a trip to Connor’s favorite orchard where Evan fell from a tree and broke his arm.

Plus there’s the Student Body President Alana Beck (Amandla Stenberg) and the ‘karma’ when Evan’s confessional video goes viral.

Perhaps the one saving grace is Julianne Moore as Heidi, Evan’s single mother, working extra nursing shifts so Evan can go to college, singing the tender solo So Big/So Small.

Based on a book by Steven Levenson, it’s adapted and streamlined by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who cut several Benj Pasek/Justin Paul songs, like the show’s original opener, Anybody Have a Map, while adding new ones.

Admittedly, Ben father, Marc Platt, is one of the film’s producer, but he’s not the only twentysomething to play younger: Tobey Maguire was 27 as Peter Parker in Spider-Man, Rachel McAdams was 26 in Mean Girls, Jennifer Grey was 27 in Dirty Dancing.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Dear Evan Hansen is a manipulatively maudlin, superficial 5, citing the Suicide Prevention Hotline after the end credits.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.