We were in New York last week and got tickets for Dear Evan Hansen. We were there for the matinee performance the day they won the Tony for best musical. It was an incredible experience, touching, disturbing, funny, challenging, thoughtful, entertaining. The amount of talent on the stage was intimidating. Forget the voices and the staging how did they remember all those lyrics? I can barely remember the name of the person I just met.
I bought a hat. I’m a sucker like that. I usually do the t-shirt thing but I had left my favorite hat in Iceland a few days before and if you know the topography of my head, you know I need a hat in summer. I saw it during the intermission and buying the hat was part of my internal conversation during the second half of the show.
It’s about how a high school boy who can’t find his place and lives his life trapped inside unable to open a window to the world, singing: “I’m tap tap tap tapping on the glass …. Can anybody see … is anybody waving back at me?” It’s about suicide and how the death of a classmate weaves its way into Evan’s story and turns him into a social media sensation ultimately bringing redemption, flawed, problematic, disturbing but healing never the less. It’s about love, lies and life lived imperfectly.
The audience is young for Broadway. You can see and hear it in their laughter, tears and cheers. Did I say I loved it? Did I say the lying and the moral ambiguities of the plot nagged at me? Most of the New York critics fall in love with Evan. A few zero in on the darker side. One reviewer in Slate calls our hero: “A self-serving fabulist who exploits the suicide of a high-school classmate by peddling a fake connection to the dead boy. The con man revels in the resulting internet fame, which wins him popularity and even the sexual attention of the boy’s grieving sister. What a creep…”
But that’s no creep who wins my heart and wins the Tony. That’s you and me. Reb Nachman said: Falling down is the beginning of rising up. Ok so we don’t do it with as much talent; we don’t have some one to stage our entrances and exits or hauntingly raw music to accompany the lyrics we call conversation. Everyone I know (maybe my circle is too limited) falls and slips as they climb through the waking hours of each day. Our hero is flawed. Our hero lies. Our hero grasps for broken straws to pull himself out the hole he is living in. There is a piece of our hero in all of us.
So I bought the hat and even downloaded the music. Reb Nachman let me. Every ascent begins with a descent.