We start believing that we belong
But every sun doesn't rise
And no one tells you where you went wrong! ♫
Dear Evan Hansen is the prime contender for the saddest musical ever made, and it really shows.
- "Anybody Have A Map?, a song about well-meaning parents desperately trying to help their children to seemingly no avail. Those fifth chords are what sell it.
- "Waving Through a Window." There's a reason it's the show's most popular song.♫ Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you've learned, because you've learned... ♫
- Also, the bridge, where Evan asks, ♫ When you're falling in a forest / And there's nobody around / Do you ever really crash / Or even make a sound? ♫ Which eventually evolves into, ♫ Did I even make a sound / Did I even make a sound / It's like I never make a sound / Will I ever make a sound...? ♫
- Even sadder when you realize that line is about how and why Evan broke his arm.
- And then because the song wasn't already sad enough, Owl City did a tie-in cover.
- Evan's last meeting with Connor at the school cafeteria. While Connor is still foul-mouthed, he is seen to be much more gentle and kinder, offering Evan a signature for his cast. And then it all goes to hell when Connor reads Evan's printed therapy letter, being enraged at the mention of Zoe. This causes Connor to angrily accuse Evan of wanting to see Connor freak out and give definitive proof to him that he is basically a freak in the school. The tears come from what could have been; if Connor didn't see Evan's therapy letter, a genuine friendship could have been formed between the two due to their similar "invisibility" at school. Instead, we see these hopes go crashing down with every word Connor yells at Evan. And even worse, this therapy letter is implied as the trigger for Connor's suicide.
- The entire meeting with Evan, Larry and Cynthia in the principal's office. Larry and Cynthia break the news to Evan that Connor ended his life, and all he had with him was Evan's therapy letter, with the two believing it to be his own suicide note. But as Evan tries to tell Connor's parents what that note really was, Cynthia begins demanding Evan to accept her truth, with Larry trying to stop her. She is left in tears over this. This is what starts Evan's Snowball Lie. It might have been wrong to lie to Connor's parents, but the desperation in Cynthia's voice makes it understandable as to why Evan would do it."THIS IS ALL WE HAVE! THIS IS THE ONLY THING WE HAVE LEFT!"
- "For Forever" is particularly heartbreaking because Evan describes his perfect day hanging out with Connor. We know this didn't happen. But it's clear from Evan's wavering voice that he desperately wishes it did.
- The song goes from heartbreaking to soul-crushing with the reveal of how Evan really fell.
- "Requiem" focuses on how Connor's family is coping with his suicide, particularly Zoe, who can't bring herself to feel sad about him dying due to their strained relationship.
- While both Zoe and Larry are angry about how Connor treated his family, Cynthia finds comfort in Connor's (fake) emails to Evan, feeling like he isn't truly gone.
- Made worse in the novel considering Connor's ghost is listening the whole time, and he can't say anything to them.
- Zoe's voice breaking on the word "monster" in "you weren't the monster I knew" and she just manages to choke back tears. Connor treated her horribly, but that didn't mean she wanted her brother dead.
- Zoe in "If I Could Tell Her". Evan's telling her all these things that Connor allegedly said about her, and she's so desperate for some kind of indication that her brother actually cared about her that she's eating it up. After the first verse, she asks Evan for more, and when he acts surprised, she says that she doesn't really care. However, her tone of voice betrays her and tells the audience just how much she really does care. Add in the fact that all of what Evan's telling her is his own feelings masqueraded as Connor and you realize that the only thing we know about him that suggests that he does in fact care is him freaking out at Evan the day he killed himself.
- The mere notion that everyone in the school forgot about Connor's suicide after one week. It shows the sad truth that, inevitably, life eventually gets in the way of grieving.
- The lead-in to "You Will Be Found" sees Evan attempting to give a speech about Connor in front of the school. He gets nervous and his social anxiety starts to take over; causing him to shake, trip over his words, drop his cards, collapse, and cry before steadying himself and beginning the song. Seeing his anxiety cause physical pain shows just how serious it is.
- "You Will Be Found" really gets the waterworks going. Especially when Larry sees the impact that social media and the Connor Project have made.He finally sheds tears after previously not showing any grief at Connor's funeral.
- The rapid violin strings at the end of the song. It's meant to show that despite Evan's rise to fame and his satisfaction of the happiness he gives to the Murphys, maintaining the lie will mean that unavoidable consequences will arise, both good and bad.
- Evan and Heidi's argument at the beginning. She is finally free to talk to Evan... just as he is about to leave for the Murphys, and lies that he is actually going to Jared's house. The one time she isn't swamped by work or class, she is unable to communicate with her son. As such, she becomes increasingly desperate for a single shred of recognition and respect."I'M YOUR MOTHER! I'M YOUR MOTHER... I'm sorry. I was... I don't know why I... I'm happy. I'm happy you had a friend, sweetheart. I'm just so sorry he's gone. I wish I had known."
- There is also this bitter exchange when she questions Evan about his involvement in the Connor Project, and his fake friendship with Connor.Heidi: You told me you broke your arm at work. At the park.
Evan: Who do you think drove me to the hospital? Who do you think waited with me in the emergency room for three hours? You were at work, remember? I couldn't even- you didn't answer your phone.
Heidi: You told me your boss took you to the hospital.
Evan: Well, so, I lied, obviously.
Heidi: So when were you planning on telling me any of this? Or you weren't?
Evan: When would I tell you, exactly? When are you even here?
Heidi: I'm here right now.
Evan: One night a week? Most people, their parents, they try to do a little bit better than that, just so you know.
- There is also this bitter exchange when she questions Evan about his involvement in the Connor Project, and his fake friendship with Connor.
- "To Break In a Glove" has this line from Larry Murphy: "Or you're trying to do what's best / for a kid who's lost control". At that point, we remember that Larry is still a grieving father who hasn't gotten over this loss yet. But he is healing because of Evan's willingness to learn about breaking in a baseball glove.
- While "Only Us" is mostly a heartwarming song that describes Evan and Zoe's reaffirmation of their relationship, pictures of Connor can be seen on the projections. This symbolizes that their relationship only exists because of Evan's lie, meaning that their love is not genuine. And Zoe is only singing this entire song because she wants their relationship to be about more than just the Connor Project. See "Words Fail" entry for the result.
- "Good For You" is a collective and admittedly well-deserved "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Heidi, Alana and Jared to Evan—Heidi calls out Evan for seeking solace in the Murphys and not trusting her; Alana starts to see inconsistencies in Evan's story and starts to suspect it's all a lie; Evan panics and tries to get Jared to write more emails. Jared refuses and calls him out for his absence and threatens to expose him. He thinks better of it when Evan points out how that would backfire on him. While all three parties are extremely angry, you can tell that they're also extremely hurt by Evan's actions.
Evan: I'm just SUCH a burden. I'm the worst thing that's ever happened to you. I've ruined your life!
- The spoken parts are even more heartwrenching...
Heidi: You are the only... THE ONE GOOD THING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED TO ME, EVAN! Sorry I can't give you anything more than that! Shit!
Evan: Well it's not my fault that other people can...
Alana: (After Evan asks her why she's so obsessed with Connor's situation when she didn't actually know him) Because I know what it's like to feel invisible! Just like Connor! To feel invisible and alone and like no one would even notice if you vanished into thin air! I bet you used to know what that felt like too!
Jared: You should remember who your friends are!
Evan: I thought the only reason you even talked to me was because of your car insurance!
Evan: So, maybe the only reason you talk to me is because you don't have any other friends!
Jared: I COULD TELL EVERYONE EVERYTHING!
Evan: Go ahead! Do it! Go tell everyone how you helped write emails pretending to be a kid who killed himself!
Jared: (Stunned Silence) FUCK YOU, EVAN! Asshole!— The stage directions here describe Jared as a "helpless, heartbroken little kid".
- Heidi's section must also be elaborated upon. Before "If I Could Tell Her", we learn that Evan's father divorced and moved to Colorado with his stepmom. When Evan yells that he's nothing more than a "burden" to her, this must bring to mind horrible memories about her divorce years earlier. Also, since she and Evan were left alone, she probably viewed the situation as a consolation — her life hadn't completely hit rock bottom. Now, Evan has taken that away from her, too.
- Then there's this lovely exchange...
- Evan's second and final talk with Imaginary!Connor. Evan just wants to escape his own spiraling lie while Imaginary!Connor is pressuring him into maintaining it. As Evan exclaims that he is ready to be done with the lie, Connor merely asks why Evan is having doubts and chatting to himself. Then the Wham Line drops regarding Evan's broken arm:Connor: How'd you break your arm? Howd you break your arm, Evan?
Evan: I fell.
Connor: Really? Is that what happened?
Evan: YES! I was- I lost my grip and then I-- I fell...
Connor: Did you fall? Or did you let go?
- Then, Connor sings a reprise of "For Forever", solemnly reminding Evan of the good times he made up about Connor just so he could be accepted by the Murphys. With every good thing mentioned, Evan is repeatedly facing the truth.
- "Words Fail" involves Evan finally telling Connor's family the truth, realizing how much harm he did to his close friends and family just to feel a sense of belonging. On the official recording, Ben Platt sounds like he's fighting back tears.
♫ I never had that perfect girl
- Hearing how badly Evan wanted to have people who would make him feel wanted is really, REALLY hard not to get touched by.
Who somehow could see the good part of me
I never had the dad who stuck it out
No corny jokes or baseball gloves
No mom who just was there 'cause mom was all she had to be... ♫
♫ Cause I've learned to slam on the brake
- The sadness of it only builds to the very end, including a Dark Reprise of "Waving Through A Window", quoted below.
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?
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?
Step into the sun... ♫
- Also, look at the lyrics above. The metaphors of stopping a car and stepping into the sun? They're the only ones used in the entire song, in contrast to Evan's other songs, which had loads of them. In short, what we're hearing, throughout "Words Fail", is all his raw and undiluted sorrow, and it's emotionally painful.
- In the middle of the song, Zoe tearfully runs away from the kitchen, followed by Cynthia. All Larry does is walk up to Evan and give him a Death Glare before leaving. And then Evan sees Imaginary!Connor with a disappointed expression. The light slowly fades on him. It's sadder than it sounds; you realize that Imaginary!Connor was right - Evan told the truth, the Murphys left, and now he's all alone, just as he feared. Even Connor abandoned him.
- The second stanza in the lyrics above is worse to hear when one realizes that they detail the sole reason why he prefers to stay in the background. It's because he's afraid of what others might think of him. Some could accept him, social anxiety and all, but others may still reject him and not care about his kinder qualities due to his inability to communicate properly. This makes him completely relatable to those suffering from this stigma.
- "So Big/So Small" from beginning to end. The general consensus here is that if you haven't already cried by this point in the show, you will cry when this song comes — especially if you're a child of a single parent or close with your mother. Heidi is reminiscing about the day Evan's father moved out. Evan, too young to understand what was going on, was only excited to get into the truck and pretend to drive it. Only after Evan's dad had left did Evan realize what had happened. One particular stanza strikes a chord with most fans.♫ That night, I tucked you into bed
I will never forget how you sat up and said
"Is there another truck coming to our driveway?
A truck that will take Mommy away?" ♫
"And I knew there'd be moment that I'd miss, and I knew there would be space I couldn't fill. And I knew I'd come up short a million different ways, and I did. And I do. ...And I will..."
- And towards the end, when Heidi assures Evan that, "There's not another truck in the driveway. Your mom isn't going anywhere. Your mom is stayin' right here." Evan breaks down, and Heidi hugs him.
- "This'll Be The Year," the song that was replaced by "Anybody Have A Map," shows that Heidi initially came across as being frustrated with Evan, which adds onto the ending.
- "A Little Bit of Light" gives some insight into Cynthia's grief and the kind of person Connor used to be before his mental illness began to affect him. It also reveals how Connor died, with two heart-smashing lyrics:
- "In The Bedroom Down The Hall" shows Heidi's relationship with Evan and, even worse, has Cynthia packing away Connor's things in boxes.
♫ In the bedroom down the hall
- The last lines of the song are much more painful when in November 2017, Ben Platt had his last performance on the show as Evan Hansen. It reads less of a eulogy to an emotionally-difficult boy and more of a farewell to a beloved member in the Dear Evan Hansen cast.
I think I'll wait another day to pack these boxes
'Cause once I'm through
I'm left with just one thing to do
- "Part of Me" is an alternative version of "You Will Be Found", and shows the entire Murphy family grieving over Connor, including Larry, who doesn't open up much about Connor's suicide in any of the current scenes.
- The entire prologue. It details Connor's bitter thoughts as he secretly leaves home to commit suicide in a secluded area, not only describing Connor's personality, but also setting the tone very well for the book that you will read.I made my exit.
Better to burn out, right, than to fade away? Kurt Cobain said that in his letter. I watched a video about all the famous ones. Ernest Hemingway. Robin Williams. Virginia Woolf. Hunter S. Thompson. Sylvia Plath. David Foster Wallace. Van Gogh. Im not comparing myselftrust me. Those people actually made an impact. I did nothing. I couldnt even write a note.
Burning is the right way to paint it. You feel yourself getting so hot, day after day. Hotter and hotter. It gets to be too much. Even for stars. At some point they fizzle out or explode. Cease to be. But if youre looking up at the sky, you dont see it that way. You think all those stars are still there. Some arent. Some are already gone. Long gone. I guess, now, so am I.
My name. That was the last thing I wrote. On another kids cast. Not quite a goodbye note. But hey, I made my little mark. On a broken limb. Seems about right. Poetic if you think about it. And thinking is just about all I can do now.
- The first chapter has Evan failing to write a reassuring letter to himself, just like the musical, but with a few gut-wrenching details added:
- His real name is Mark Evan Hansen. He doesn't like his first name, as the initials spell out "Meh". He has got rid of it, wanting his intitials to be "Eh", as in, a somebody who is recognized by others.
- Evan dislikes his therapy sessions, as his lack of commitment gets in the way of the path to becoming a better person.
- He thinks about the cliques he witnessed the previous year, and then contemplates what could happen in his new school year.I barely had a handle on the way things were last year, and now there will be so much newness to absorb. New wardrobes, tech, vehicles. New hair styles, colors, lengths. New piercings and tattoos. New couples. Whole new sexual orientations and gender identities. New classes, students, teachers. So much change. And everyone just marches on like nothings different, but for me, every new year feels like starting from zero.
- He has a map on his bedroom, which initially contained pins marking all the places he would like to hike. But after his recent summer holidays, he took all but one of them down: Colorado, where his dad lives.
- When his mother is always at work, he tries to call his father, but he is always busy.
- He goes on a mini rant in his mind, about the difficulties of writing self-improvement letters, but also his perceived notion that NO ONE can understand what it's like to be him, whether it's taking drugs or attending a therapist.
- One tiny detail was added for Evan's confession of his lie to the Murphys. When Larry confronts Evan after the latter has spilled the beans, he can only respond with two words: "Please leave".It's the please that destroys me.
- The reveal of Evan's "accident" actually being an attempted suicide. Leading up to this, Evan has finally fixed the Ellison Park sign and is anticipating his father's awe at his hard work after texting him... only to receive an ultrasound picture announcing that the father has a new son. The idea that something insignificant, like sibling favouritism, triggered Evan to try to take his own life is extremely harrowing.
- Connor's Heel Realization during "Requiem" in the novel. On the bright side, it's a catalyst for him getting better later on.