As the title character in “Dear Evan Hansen,” a lonely teenager who inadvertently becomes a social media sensation and a symbol of the kindness that is often cruelly absent in high school hallways, the marvelous young actor Ben Platt is giving a performance that’s not likely to be bettered on Broadway this season.
What’s more, this gorgeous heartbreaker of a musical, which opened at the Music Box Theater on Sunday, has grown in emotional potency during its journey to the big leagues, after first being produced in Washington and Off Broadway. Rarely – scratch that — never have I heard so many stifled sobs and sniffles in the theater.
For those allergic to synthetic sentiment, rest assured that the show, with a haunting score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (the coming movie musical “La La Land,” for which they wrote the lyrics, is already generating Oscar buzz), matched by a book of equal sensitivity by Steven Levenson, doesn’t sledgehammer home its affecting story. On the contrary, the musical finds endless nuances in the relationships among its characters, and makes room for some leavening humor, too. It is also the rare Broadway musical not derived from or inspired by some other source, which is refreshing in itself.