'Dear Evan Hansen'
Source: Universal Pictures

Universal's 'Dear Evan Hansen' Movie Pulls Source Material Right From Broadway

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May. 19 2021, Published 2:40 p.m. ET

Universal Pictures' adaptation of the Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen is only the latest in Hollywood's attempt to cash in on audiences' love for Broadway. Following its fellow movie musicals Cats, Hamilton, Les Misérables, and more, Dear Evan Hansen brings the 2015 show tunes from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul to life in a new way. 

Fans and curious viewers are wondering if the Dear Evan Hansen movie will be a musical like its source material. Here's everything we know about the movie. 

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Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen movie
Source: Universal Pictures

'Dear Evan Hansen' will remain true to its musical source material.

Universal Pictures purchased the rights to the film version of the musical Dear Evan Hansen in 2018, not long after it won the Tony for Best Musical in 2017. Marc Platt — father of Ben Platt, who originated the title role on Broadway and is reprising the role in the film — serves as a producer on the film, and original composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are executive producers. The musical's writer Steven Levenson wrote the screenplay for the movie, and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) directed.

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Alongside Ben Platt as Evan Hansen, the film includes Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) as Zoe Murphy, Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give) as Alana Beck, Colton Ryan as Connor Murphy, Nik Dodani as Evan's best friend Jared Kalwani, Julianne Moore as Heidi Hansen, and Amy Adams and Danny Pino as Mr. and Mrs. Murphy. 

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The plot of the film will follow the musical, which includes socially awkward and anxious Evan Hansen navigating high school by writing reassuring letters to himself. When Connor misinterprets Evan's awkwardness as making fun of him, the two develop an antagonistic relationship. Later, when Connor commits suicide, and one of Evan's notes is found in his pocket, the larger community assumes they were great friends, and a series of events unfold. 

Ben Platt and Kaitlyn Dever in Dear Evan Hansen
Source: Universal Pictures
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The Hollywood Reporter noted that Amandla's character Alana has an expanded role in the film, and that she will sing a new original song created for the movie. The film was confirmed to remain a musical like the source material in June of 2020 by Deadline upon the announcement of Kaitlyn Dever joining the cast.

Is 'Dear Evan Hansen' problematic? There has been some controversy surrounding the way mental illness is portrayed in the story.

While many audiences and critics lauded Dear Evan Hansen for discussing the importance of mental health, others thought that the material didn't land. The main reason Dear Evan Hansen is controversial is that the purpose of Evan developing a faux relationship with Connor post-death is motivated by his crush on Connor's sister, Zoe. Instead of telling the truth about the letter, he goes along with the assumption he and Connor were friends to get closer to Zoe.

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Ben Platt and Amandla Stenberg in Dear Evan Hansen
Source: Universal Pictures

Many who are critical of Dear Evan Hansen think that Evan's lies aren't the problem, but rather how the motive for his lying is his anxiety. His crush on Zoe and bonding with the Murphy family could lead to the false assumption that people with anxiety would be motivated to prey upon others for sympathy and romantic affection, which isn't at all the case.

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Ben Platt on Broadway in Dear Evan Hansen
Source: The Schubert Organization

As The Paw Print says, "While it is true that anyone — including someone with anxiety — could in theory craft the intricate network of lies that Evan did, the fact that the musical blames these decisions on his anxiety places mental health in a negative light." Maybe the film version will provide a clearer version of the message the show's creators want to send?

Dear Evan Hansen will arrive in theaters on Sept. 24, 2021. 

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