Dear Evan Hansen is an original musical written by the composer-lyricist team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with the book by Steven Levenson. It opened on Broadway on December 4, 2016, after its world premiere at Arena Stage in 2015, and an Off-Broadway production at Second Stage from March to May 2016.
The musical focuses on teenager Evan Hansen, who suffers from a social anxiety disorder. After the suicide of fellow student Connor Murphy, a series of events land Evan in the center of a false narrative - that he was Connor's secret best friend. As Evan is thrust deeper into a web of lies, he gains everything he's ever wanted — a chance to belong. He becomes a beacon of hope for Connor's grieving family — only to witness everything unravel around him. In the end, he must face a harsh truth: even the best of intentions can become harmful.
The musical has received widespread critical acclaim for its music, story, and performances of its original cast, headlined by Ben Platt as Evan Hansen.
Dear Evan Hansen contains examples of:
- Adult Fear: Your child committing suicide or, to a lesser extent, not being able to provide for them.
- Alliterative Name: Heidi Hansen.
- Ambiguous Disorder:
- While it's never referred to by name, Evan shows a lot of the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Or, depending on the actor playing him, he can also be portrayed as being on the autism spectrum.
- Connor is also implied to have some sort of mental illness, as he is emotionally volatile, paranoid about what others think of him, and apparently had a history of suicidal ideation. It has been suggested that he may have borderline personality disorder or bipolar.
- Apologizes a Lot: One of Evan's signature traits, as noted by Zoe. Zoe herself ends up doing this in a similar fashion during "If I Could Tell Her."
- Arc Words:
- "I'm flying blind, and I'm making this up as I go." Set as the chorus of the opening number. This not only makes the audience sympathetic to the mothers; it also refers to Evan's situation. He keeps making things up as he goes until he gets cornered and has to confess to everything.
- "If you're falling in a forest, and there's nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?" It refers to Evan's failed suicide by letting go of a tree branch.
- Armor-Piercing Question: "How did you break your arm?"
- Armor-Piercing Response: After Heidi finds out about Evan's occasional visits to the Murphys instead of Jared's, Evan yells to Heidi that he thinks he's nothing more than a burden to her life. She goes ballistic, remarking back that he is the only and one good thing in her life, and sarcastically apologizes for not doing her best for him. Evan then venomously remarks that it's not his fault that other people can. This leads into "Good for You", as Heidi ends up being in bitter acceptance of Evan choosing the Murphy family over her.
- Artistic License: In-universe, Evan takes a number of liberties with his stories, which the writers have said were intentional to demonstrate how the Murphys fell for them because of their desire to believe as much as anything else (and which Alana ends up Pulling the Thread on when she falls out with Evan in Act 2).
- Artistic License Geography: A minor issue, but Evan says he and Connor talked about "biking the Appalachian Trail" after graduation. If either of them had actually looked into it, they'd have found out the Appalachian Trail banned bikes back in 1984.
- Artistic License Medicine: A bigger issue is that Evan didn't initially intend the "perfect day" he had with Connor at the apple orchard to be the same day he broke his arm. "For Forever" starts with the line "End of May or early June". It's currently September, and a broken arm typically heals in six to eight weeks. Unless he somehow repeatedly re-injures it — which isn't the case — the earliest he could've broken his arm is in July — after the end of the previous school year when he was working his summer job at the park. The creators revealed that "For Forever" was written before the script was nailed down and it was too late to change the line when they noticed the discrepancy. They left it in as a bit of Dramatic Irony, showing the Murphys could've exposed Evan immediately had they been really paying attention.
- Becoming the Mask: One of the core themes of the show — The false version that Evan imagines in his fictitious friendship with Connor is what gives him the strength to become a better person in Real Life.
- Believing Their Own Lies: Evan buys into his own lies for a bit before it bites him back.
- "For Forever" is greatly praised for its writing, because it so clearly portrays the process by which Evan starts off just trying to placate the Murphys and then the lie steadily becomes real to him over time.
- Big Brother Bully: Zoe sees Connor as one because he would verbally lash out at her and their parents.
- Big Brother Instinct: Connor goes ballistic after he thinks Evan is using his sister.
- Bittersweet Ending: Evan admits his lie to the Murphys, even though the truth crushes them and destroys his relationship with the family. But, he ends up reconciling with Heidi, and after a one-year Distant Finale, Zoe. Even though Evan's relationship with Zoe becomes relegated to Amicable Exes status, his final letter reveals he has changed over the course of the musical and has embraced himself as a socially awkward, yet resolute man.
- The first and last lines begin with the play's name itself, as Evan writes a letter to himself, in the hopes of making himself better. In his first letter, he writes that it will be an amazing day, because he'll be himself, before descending into a tangent regarding his social anxiety. At the end, he reassures himself that today day will be good as he has finally learned to accept who he is.
- Evan's first and last discussion with Connor, whether it's the real person or an imaginary version, contains the tree accident that caused Evan to have a broken arm. Imaginary!Connor forces Evan to admit that he tried to kill himself by letting go rather than accidentally falling off.
- Bungled Suicide: The truth about how Evan broke his arm.
- BSoD Song: "Words Fail", where Evan reveals his lie to the Murphys.
- Cassandra Truth: The first thing Evan does when confronted with Connor's "suicide note" is try to tell the truth — "Connor didn't write that!" — but Connor's parents just assume he's in denial about Connor's death, and Cynthia immediately reveals that the letter is the only thing they have left of their son. Learning the truth would only devastate her further, so Evan feels he has no choice but to begin lying to comfort her.
- Color Motif: Evan frequently wears blue. It's also prominently featured on the shows posters and playbills.
- Contrived Coincidence: The play rests on a series of these, to show us that Evan isn't any kind of scheming mastermind and that his intersection with the Murphys' lives is pure dumb luck. It's only because Evan's chance encounter with Connor happened right before Connor went all the way over the edge and killed himself that Evan gets involved with the Murphys at all (and that Evan didn't get publicly humiliated for creeping on Zoe in his letter). And the lies only spin out of control — in contrast to Jared's admonition to just minimally "nod and confirm" what the Murphys want to hear — because Evan happens to say he and Connor spent time at the "apple-place" while staring at a bowl of apples, and it so happens that the Autumn's Smile Apple Orchard actually is a place the Murphys have extremely fond memories of (but is also a place that closed down and they haven't been to in years, which means any errors in Evan's description of it can be chalked up to imperfect memories).
- Crowd Song: "You Will Be Found" is a twist on this — there isn't a physical crowd onstage, but the song is about a "virtual" crowd of faceless strangers (whom we hear as voiceovers) all testifying one after another to how Evan's speech changed their lives. The creators did this for real by organizing a "virtual choir" of fans singing the song together on the DEH website.
- Dark Reprise:
- A part of "Waving Through a Window" is sung again in "Words Fail". It's also notable for being a sadder reprise of a song that wasn't exactly happy to begin with.
- Played straight with "You Will Be Found". The song initially conveys the message that if one is lost, they can be helped upon by others. The next time it's sung, it represents the abuse that the Murphys have received from social media, as they believe the Murphys didn't care enough about their son.
- Imaginary Connor sings "For Forever" to Evan as a warning in Act 2 not to tell the truth to the Murphys, or the happiness he was dreaming so hard about in that song will be permanently lost to him.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The title phrase in "For Forever" is an intentionally childish phrasing previously used by Pasek and Paul in their musical Dogfight for the main characters' promise to never abandon their friendship.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Evan and Zoe split after it comes out that Evan was lying about basically everything. But they're on good terms by the story's end, and she forgives him for the whole ordeal.
- Disappeared Dad: Evan's dad. "So Big/So Small" details the day he left.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The song "You Will Be Found" has a very similar energy to an inspirational church service, and the way Evan's story about his "perfect day" with Connor goes viral and becomes a source of solace and comfort to thousands of complete strangers feels very much like a metaphor about how the power of a religion grows far beyond the myth that started it.
- Driven to Suicide: Connor Murphy's suicide early in Act One kicks off the plot. Evan makes his own attempt before the events of the show; that's how he breaks his arm.
- Easter Egg: Evan's index cards for his speech before "You Will Be Found" go into the audience when he drops them. They have actual text on them (printed to look like handwriting) for any audience members who find them. They reveal that the speech he was going to give centered on an anodyne discussion of suicide statistics. (It does reveal that the setting of the show is Maryland by naming the suicide rate for that state, possibly as a joke.)
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Words Fail".
- Establishing Character Moment:
The script directions state that before she encounters Evan, she puts on a fake smile.
- Evan: The musical opens with the character writing a letter to himself. He muses that today will be an amazing day because he is being himself. But as soon as he finishes typing that, he starts rambling about all the minor details one must possess to be recognized, as well as recounting a failed encounter with someone he loves. He is socially awkward and wants to connect with other people.
- Heidi: She tries to give Evan the enthusiasm to start his school year happily, but all Evan can elicit is Flat Joy. Her verse in "Does Anybody Have a Map?" highlights the amount of effort she puts into connecting with Evan, and her desperation when her actions fail.
- Connor: At the breakfast table, he claims that he doesn't feel like going to school, and it turns out that he is high. His interactions with the rest of his family indicate that the entire dynamic is severely strained.
- Cynthia: Her verse in "Does Anybody Have a Map?" illustrates how her lifestyle, like cooking for Larry, Connor, and Zoe is increasingly difficult, and always complicated.
- Larry: When Cynthia asks Larry to convince Connor to go to school, he tells Connor to do so in a nonchalant manner. Cynthia then chides him on his lack of effort to persuade Connor, believing that he is busy on his email. He then responds that Connor cannot listen to him. Two things are established; he is emotionally distant from his family, and he is more dedicated to his work because his son doesn't need him.
- Zoe: She swears back at Connor because Connor swore at her when she assumed he was definitely high. She is a typical high school student who clearly despises her brother and his attitude.
- Alana: She meets Evan and asks him how his summer was. Before Evan can reply, she interrupts with her patented response — so many extracurricular activities.
The script denotes that he enters with a "practiced swagger" that "only the deeply insecure" can pull off.
- She wants to help her community in any way possible; she is also shy like Evan but conceals that with cheeriness.
- Jared: His first line is a joke to Evan regarding his broken arm, believing that Evan stalked Zoe's Instagram and subsequently had A Date with Rosie Palms.
- He is not only a Deadpan Snarker and a complete joker, but someone who attempts to solve every problem with humor.
- Foreshadowing: Instances referring to Evan's Bungled Suicide by climbing up a tree and letting go of a branch:
- The Arc Words "When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around, do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?" really sticks out once the truth behind Evan's cast is revealed.
- When Connor asks Evan about the latter's cast, Evan responds that he fell out of a tree. Connor laughs and remarks that it's the "saddest fucking thing" he's ever heard. He was Right for the Wrong Reasons: the suicide attempt itself was sad, not the method by which he did it, even though Connor didn't know that at that time.
- Connor offers to sign Evan's cast "so we can both pretend we have friends". He doesn't know how true this will become.
- The Four Chords of Pop: The chorus of "Waving Through A Window."
- Friendless Background: Connor and Evan but in different ways. Connor is a Loner. Evan is really shy and lacks self-confidence.
- Friendship Song: "Sincerely, Me" between Evan and Connor. It's subverted — Evan and Jared are faking e-mail exchanges to keep up the lie that Evan and Connor were friends.
- Full-Name Basis: Evan's letters to himself always open with "Dear Evan Hansen" as a sort of ritual; then close with "Sincerely, Me." Because of this structure, people are able to mistake the letter for a letter to Evan from Connor. In "Sincerely, Me," he and Jared have to keep up the pretense that he and Connor corresponded this way — as his letters to Connor begin "Dear Connor Murphy."
- The novelization retcons this by saying that "Evan Hansen" is not his full name — it's actually "Mark Evan Hansen", and he never uses the "Mark" out of respect for his mom (since it's his dad's name).
- Genre Savvy: Alana. After spending most of the play exaggerating how close she and Connor were, she (rightly) starts to suspect Evan of making up the whole story of their friendship. She still falls for Evan's story when he shows her Connor's "suicide note", though.
- Grief Song:
- There are a few. Most of them are atypical given the unusual circumstances of the musical. "For Forever" most closely follows the trope, but all the reminiscing in it is in Evan's imagination; he's grieving over someone he never really knew.
- Defied in "Requiem", in which Zoe refuses to grieve for Connor.♫ Why should I play the grieving girl and lie
Saying that I miss you
And that my world has gone dark without your light?
I will sing no requiem tonight. ♫
- Go-Getter Girl: Alana Beck — Evan accuses her of taking advantage of Connor's suicide so that she can bolster her college applications.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: In "Sincerely, Me", Evan and imaginary Connor sing that "our friendship goes beyond your average kind of bond", though Evan quickly adds, "but not because we're gay!"
- "The Hero Sucks" Song: "Good for You": Heidi, Alana, and Jared become mad at Evan for getting closer with the Murphys and letting his lie unravel. "Sucks" is a bit strong, but you can tell how angry and hurt the three became.
- Hollywood Hacking: Jared becomes involved in Evan's scheme because Evan supposedly needs Jared's computer expertise to create a fake email address for Connor and backdate the emails (presumably by changing the time and date on the system clock of his computer) to make it look like they've been corresponding for months. But this isn't actually helpful — the sent date will be backdated into the past, but the received date would be recorded by Evan's own email server and be accurate (making it look like Connor's emails somehow took six months to arrive). Moreover, the backdating isn't necessary — creating the account might be necessary if someone decides to check it exists by sending a message to it and seeing if it bounces, but unless someone actually demands to log into Evan's email themselves and look at his inbox directly — which no one ever does — Evan can just make up fake screenshots or transcripts of whatever emails he wants and show them to people without having to "hack" anything. (That said, he may be so computer illiterate he needs Jared's help to do even this.)
- "I Am" Song: "Waving Through A Window" establishes Evan's character and his debilitating social anxiety.
- Idle Rich: Zoe sees her mother Cynthia like this because she jumps from fad to fad to stave off boredom.
- Informed Ability — Done deliberately using the medium of a musical to full effect. "For Forever", "You Will Be Found" and "Words Fail" obviously aren't Evan singing in-universe; he's just speaking off-the-cuff — however, the soaring vocal performance and instrumentation give us the idea that what he's saying must be incredibly powerful; explaining the emotional effect he has on everyone around him. (It's a matter of serious Fanfic Fuel to imagine what the actual simple five-minute speech in "You Will Be Found" was that turned Evan into a national hero.)
- Instant Web Hit: Played straight, and for drama. Somehow, the random video one student took of Evan's speech at Connor's memorial spreads like wildfire; not only through Evan's school but out into the world, gaining over 16,000 views overnight. Within a matter of days, Evan becomes a viral celebrity. (One voiceover implies it even achieves national recognition.)
- In the Style of...: The show's score borrows heavily from late 90s/early 2000s adult alternative music (Vanessa Carlton, Five For Fighting, Barenaked Ladies) and gives it a showtunes glean. "Sincerely, Me", meanwhile, is a stylistic sound-alike of Ben Folds Five.
- Ironic Echo:
- "Think about it". It is said twice to Evan; first by Cynthia to encourage Evan to give a public speech at the memorial assembly for Connor, and secondly by the imaginary Connor, who wants him to decide whether he wants to reveal his lie to the Murphys or not.
- The "You Are Not Alone" mantra in "You Will Be Found" showcases the important virtues of friendship and belonging. Its return as a Dark Reprise shows how social media can turn ugly — people demand revenge against the Murphys as they believe the family is responsible for their son's suicide.
- Irony: Evan's main problem in Act One is his inability to communicate properly with others. In Act Two, Evan faces a new difficulty: the inability to keep his mouth shut. To recount:
- He lashes out at Heidi for not being present for most of his life even though she is trying very hard.
- He then accuses Alana for only participating in the Connor Project to boost her college opportunities — despite her selfless qualities.
- Finally, he threatens Jared with a Taking You with Me remark, as Jared wants to reveal the lie. He feels Evan is only using him to fabricate emails — not because they are real friends.
- Similarly, Evan's struggles in Act 1 are all about feeling invisible and ignored, like he has no impact on other people's lives. His struggles in Act 2 are the exact opposite — the stress of suddenly being the center of everyone's attention, and having to deal with the burden of the unintended consequences his actions have had on the world. Compare the chorus of "Waving Through A Window" ("On the outside, always looking in") with his anguished cry at the climax of "Good For You", "Just let me OUT!"
- It's All About Me: Evan struggles badly with the knowledge that despite claiming to and feeling like he's acting out of altruism, his actions really are just to benefit himself. Of course, you can lay that accusation on other characters, especially Alana.
- "I Want" Song: "Waving Through A Window" establishes that Evan desperately wants to connect with other people, and feel like he matters.
- Critics have pointed out that, in a heartbreaking twist, "For Forever" is a hidden "I Want" Song — Evan at no point in the song talks about wanting something he doesn't have, but knowing the story we know that the "perfect day" in the song never happened and he describes it with such passion and clarity because it's something he desperately wants to have happen for once in his life before he dies. "Finale" is a Triumphant Reprise of "For Forever" that indicates that, as bittersweet as the ending of the story may be, Evan did come to find some measure of that peace.
- Jerkass: Connor, while not without his sympathetic qualities, is generally shown to be an unpleasant, unlikable human being.
- Karma Houdini: Other than spilling the beans to Heidi and the Murphy family, Evan largely gets away with his fake friendship with Connor. There's also no mention of whether Alana suffers any repercussions for posting Connor's "suicide note" online and being responsible for the media abuse the Murphys endure.
- Liar Revealed: "Words Fail".
- Line-of-Sight Name: Evan's fateful series of lies begins with him stammering that he and Connor used to go to the... "apple-place", while he's staring at the bowl of apples on the table. It's just his luck that the Murphys actually do have fond memories of going to a local apple orchard during Connor's childhood, and that this sends Mrs. Murphy into a burst of nostalgic reminiscences that Evan immediately picks up on to add details to his own story.
- Loners Are Freaks: Played with, as both Evan and Connor are friendless and therefore deemed freakish. Connor more closely follows this trope, as Jared accuses him of looking like a school shooter and even calls him a freak when Connor loses his temper.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Waving Through A Window" is a fairly up-tempo song about the main character's depression.
- Zigzagged. "Sincerely, Me" is an upbeat, cheery song about the awkward, but enduring friendship between Connor and Evan. However, the audience is aware that this friendship isn't real and the exchange is entirely fabricated.
- If you don't know this show, "For Forever" just sounds like a typical sweet song about a childhood friendship. It's only if you know that Evan is making up a story about a day that never happened, that he has no friends, and that the true story of the day he broke his arm is that he tried to kill himself and no one came to save him or help him that you understand how heartbreaking it is.
- Madness Mantra: The bridge of "Waving Through A Window", which is mostly the words "When you're falling in a forest / And there's nobody around, / Do you ever really crash / Or even make a sound?" repeated over and over as the music gets more intense. It feels like an anxiety attack.
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "You Will Be Found".
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Mike Faist, who originated the role of Connor, deliberately avoided the stage door and publicity in general during his run on the show because he felt the contrast between his real persona and Connor's would destroy the illusion around the character (partly because we get to know so little about Real Connor in the show).
- Meaningful Background Event: During "You Will be Found", as Larry and Cynthia watch the unexpected impact that Evan's speech and the Connor Project has made, Heidi can be seen observing the same thing. This leads to her concern about Evan's newly gained popularity and eventual exposure of his lies.
- Metaphorically True: Evan's speech in "You Will Be Found", about the day Connor saved him when he fell from the tree, and he's now haunted by his inability to save Connor in return, is true, just not the way people think it is (Evan's lie about his friendship with Connor is what saved him from his loneliness and despair, and he's continuing the Connor Project out of a desperate sense of guilt to make up for his lie by honoring Connor's memory).
- Mistaken for Gay: When he talks to the Murphys, Evan throws together a story about how he and Connor were "secret friends". They told no one, made sure to never be seen together, and even communicated via secret email accounts. Jared lampshades this:Jared: His parents think you were lovers. You realize that, right?
Evan: What? Why would they think that?
Jared: Um. You were best friends but he wouldn't let you talk to him at school? And when you did, he kicked your ass? That's like the exact formula for secret gay high school lovers.
Evan: Oh my God.
- Motifs: Trees and sunlight are mentioned quite a lot.
- Motivational Lie: Evan ends up justifying his deception this way — even though the lies are clearly for his own gain, they're also the only solace Connor's family has after his death, and The Connor Project turns into an inspirational moment for troubled teenagers across the entire country. Even after Evan confesses to the Murphys, they choose not to expose him in public and let The Connor Project go on, because of the good it's doing for others.
- Mood Whiplash: Multiple times the show defuses tension by having an emotional scene with Evan at the Murphys' house immediately followed by a video chat with Jared where he laughs uproariously at Evan's situation.
- Nervous Wreck: Evan, as a result of a social anxiety disorder.
- No Antagonist: There is literally no bad guys in this play. Instead, it's Evan's inability to escape from his lie, and the Murphys' quick acceptance of these deceptions as comfort, combined with Heidi's repeated attempts to please Evan, create most of the problems.
- Novelization: Val Emmich wrote one aimed at young adults which expands the story. Has its own page here.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Larry and Cynthia Murphy outlive their son Connor.
- Parents as People: Heidi Hansen and Larry and Cynthia Murphy. They do their best to take care of their children. As heard in "Anybody Have a Map?""The scary truth is I'm flying blind and I'm making things up as I go."
- Parental Love Song: "So Big/So Small", Heidi's big number about always being there for Evan.
- Parental Substitute: How Evan sees the Murphys. See "The Hero Sucks" Song for Heidi's reaction.
- Patter Song: "Anybody Have A Map?" and "Sincerely, Me."
- Personal Effects Reveal: We learn a little more about the real Connor through his personal belongings, such as the tie he got in middle school on the assumption that he'd attend lots of bar mitzvah parties (he was invited to none), or the baseball glove his father bought him as a gift (he never used it). Evan inherits both of these items.
- Posthumous Character: Connor Murphy. He only appears alive onstage for a few minutes, but he's present for the rest of the musical as a creation of Evan's psyche and how he (Evan) imagines him to be.
- Pull the Thread: Alana starts noticing the holes and inconsistencies in Evan's story pretty quickly after starting the Connor Project, although it takes her a while to actually suspect him of lying. She eventually accuses him of making the whole thing up, but Evan changes her mind by showing the "suicide note".
- Reality Ensues:
- Connor was a volatile and violent person who made life hell for his family and regularly threatened to kill his sister Zoe. After his death, they are torn between grieving for him and unresolved bitterness at the pain he caused them, with Zoe outright refusing to forgive him or grieve for him. If someone does a lot of bad things before they die, their death doesn't erase what they've done, nor will people automatically forgive them just because they're now gone.
- Evan didn't actually plan ahead his lies very well and the deeper in he gets the more they contradict themselves; all it takes is for the smartest person involved in the story (Alana) to stop sympathizing with him and start looking at him with a little bit of skepticism and it all comes falling apart.
- Going viral is very dangerous (as noted in the Cut Song "Going Viral"), and as heartwarming as the flood of strangers moved by Connor's story in "You Will Be Found" seems, mobs of strangers like that can unpredictably turn ugly in an instant if their moods shift, which is exactly what happens in "You Will Be Found (Reprise)" when they decide someone needs to be blamed for Connor's death.
- Rule of Symbolism: In Act Two, before Evan heads to the Murphys' house and dismisses Heidi's demands for a talk with her, Evan starts to wear a grey hoodie. During "The Hero Sucks" Song "Good for You", where Evan sides with the Murphys over his friends and family, he zips up that hoodie. At that point, he is dressing just like Connor, symbolizing how he has become a new surrogate son to the Murphys.
- Shipper on Deck: Jared, for Evan and Connor.
- The Connor Project is obviously inspired by The Trevor Project, which is specifically aimed at LGBT teens (and was itself inspired by the short film Trevor).
- The title of "For Forever" is a callback to Pasek and Paul's previous musical Dogfight.
- Although it hasn't been confirmed to be the writers' intention, the "A La Mode" ice cream parlor mentioned in "For Forever" is a real place in Ocean City, NJ.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Connor's death in the first act kick starts the plot of the show.
- Snowball Lie: Evan's lie gets bigger and bigger until it's out of his control.
- Society Marches On: This show debuted on Broadway in 2016, just before 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix in 2017 and launched a huge backlash over public discussion of suicide and preventing suicide contagion in teenagers. Dear Evan Hansen is, itself, a deeply critical examination of the idea that suicide is a way to "live forever" or "make your mark on the world", but even just a few years later it seems very jarring that the in-universe Connor Project isn't criticized by anyone for glorifying Connor's death in this way — and especially that Alana doesn't face any consequences for posting Connor's suicide note online.
- Starts with a Suicide: Connor Murphy's, to be exact.
- Social Media Is Bad: Originally this was a major Aesop of the show as Pasek and Paul envisioned it, with a Cut Song "Goin' Viral" talking about how dangerous the Internet can be and how rapidly a viral public shaming can destroy someone's life. This message went Out of Focus as the show developed, but a big part of the show's staging is still covering the stage with projection screens showing the invisible digital world constantly surrounding the characters (and the ending scene of the show has the screens finally recede so all we see is the real trees in real dirt that represent the apple orchard). The songs "You Will Be Found" and "You Will Be Found (Reprise)" are what remains of this theme — "You Will Be Found" shows the power social media has to give isolated and alienated people an outlet and a ray of hope, only for "You Will Be Found (Reprise)" to turn around and show how positivity on the Internet can turn into hate at the drop of a hat.
- Stepford Smiler: Heidi starts "Anybody Have a Map?" trying to get Evan excited about his first day of school, but as the song reveals, she has no real idea what she's doing.
- The Power of Legacy: A core theme of the show, along with The Power of Language and The Power of Love. The heartbreaking truth is that Connor must have had more to his life than being a vicious bully and abuser, but nobody knows anything about him to contradict that image. Evan's initial decision to lie about knowing Connor was driven by the desire to comfort his mother and give her just one positive memory of her son... and even after he confesses his deception, the Murphys keep up the ruse in public, because the world now needs the story that Connor's life has become.
- The Stoner: Connor. In his very first scene he is implied to be high. This appears to be routine, as Larry scoffs "He's probably high" and Cynthia says, "We've talked about this."
- Throwing Out the Script: Evan has written some notes to give a speech in front of all the school members in memory of Connor. Due to his social anxiety, he stutters, gets nervous and confused and finally his notes slip from his hands and fall everywhere. At that moment, he decides to speak from the heart, leading to the song "You Will Be Found".
- Title Drop: The first words of the musical are "Dear Evan Hansen".
- Triumphant Reprise: "Finale" is one for "For Forever".
- Verbal Backspace: Used throughout "Sincerely, Me" to illustrate Jared and Evan writing and re-writing the fake email conversations between Evan and Connor, trying to make it sound convincing (and because Jared keeps writing in gay jokes).Evan: ♫ I gotta tell you life without you has been hard. ♫
Jared: (Snarky) Hard?
Evan: ♫ ...has been bad. ♫
Evan: (Annoyed) ♫ ...has been rough. ♫
♫ He thought, you looked really pretty...er, it looked pretty cool when you put indigo streaks in your hair. ♫
- Also in "If I Could Tell Her", as Evan is making up things that Connor wished he could tell his sister:
Cynthia: Did Connor tell you about the Harrises? We used to go skiing together, our families.Evan: (nodding furiously) Connor loved skiing.Zoe: Connor hated skiing.Evan: Right, sorry, that's what I meant, Connor loved talking about how much he hated skiing.
- Evan's initial conversation with Connor's family is filled with Verbal Backspace showing how much of a Bad Liar he is, and it's only Mrs. Murphy's obsessive need to believe she has a window into her son's life through his best friend that keeps her from catching on.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Connor Murphy only appears in the show's timeline proper for a few scenes. Any other appearances are how Evan imagines him to be in their false friendship.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Heidi, Alana, Jared, and later on, the Murphys to Evan after he neglects his mom and friends and his lie falls apart.
- Wham Line:
- How Evan really broke his arm.Connor: Did you fall? Or did you let go?
- When Alana posts Evan's therapy letter to himself online, believing it's Connor's suicide letter, a montage of voices appear again. This leads the audience to believe it will be a happier reprise of "You Will Be Found", as the letter can help fund the apple orchard, but then, this line shifts the song into a Dark Reprise:Virtual Voice: He wrote his suicide note to Evan Hansen, because he knew his family didn't give a shit.
- And, of course, the biggest Wham Line of the musical — Evan finally reveals his lie to the Murphys, lest he risk causing them more pain.Evan: He didn't write it! ... I wrote it!
- How Evan really broke his arm.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The implied setting of the show changed multiple times throughout the writing process and in the finished product the writers chose to leave it ambiguous, leaving various contradictory hints throughout the show. Early versions of the script referred to the show taking place in "Portland" (either the one in Oregon or Maine), and the final version of the show keeps a line where Cynthia Murphy describes ordering wine from a special vintner "just outside Portland" (although given their wealth the Murphys could easily be ordering wine from anywhere in the country). On the other hand, Larry Murphy appears to be a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, and index cards Evan drops into the audience mention "our home state of Maryland". Evan mentions that his summer job was as a ranger at Ellison Park, which is a real place near Rochester, NY; meanwhile the ice cream parlor named "A La Mode" on the way to the orchard is also a real place in Ocean City, NJ. The only thing we really know must be true about Evan's hometown is that it's in an area known for apple orchards, which doesn't really rule out any of the above answers.
- A Freeze-Frame Bonus of Larry's business card indicates his law firm is based in Gaithersburg, MD, but then immediately contradicts this by giving it a phone number with a 214 area code (for the Dallas-Fort Worth area).
- Evan's reference to the Appalachian Trail is suggestive of an East Coast setting, although since he just throws it out as a fanciful idea for a bucket list item it doesn't mean that much.
- The most we can say is that Evan's hometown canonically is not in one of the other places named as places people are sending him messages from once he goes viral ("Michigan, Vermont, Sacramento, Tampa").
- We also know that the show doesn't take place in Colorado, because that's where Evan's father ran off with his stepmom.
- You Are Not Alone: The main point Evan hopes to make with The Connor Project. It even becomes an important, frequently repeated lyric in the song "You Will Be Found." See Ironic Echo for its darker use.
- Every character in the play is struggling with loneliness and isolation in some form or another. The story explores how Evan's lie helps them each to connect with the people around them.