It all started over a lunch that happened over ten years ago between producer Stacey Mindich and musicians and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. They were young songwriters and although they were already accomplished, they hadn’t been on Broadway yet. Mindich heard their songs and described them as “exquisite in their storytelling.” At that time she had ideas to commission the duo to creates some work but their energy and enthusiasm took over. She decided to ask them what they really wanted to do. They told her a story that was the beginning of Dear Evan Hansen.
The story is based on real-life events that Pasek and Paul experienced first in high school and college. “This show started as a seed and we never thought it would grow into anything more than that,” said Pasek. “The show talks about the complicated nature of when you’re not always so truthful. But it grew to something we did not expect.”
“It was the worst idea I ever heard!” said Mindich as she recalled that initial meeting. “But it was provocative, compelling and authentic. I knew they could turn it into something.”
Mindich, Pasek and Paul turned to playwright Steven Levenson to shape the story – someone who Mindich described as someone who could infiltrate the songs and speak their language. The team worked on the storyline for about a year and then at one point they decided it was the right time to take the next steps. The rough draft was read to the director Michael Greif (Rent) and Pasek and Paul sang the songs. He was immediately “in”.
“At the heart of the story it’s really about two families,” said Levinson. “It’s about a boy caught between two families – a family that needs a son and a son that needs a family. That was a profound revelation to us and it was tremendously useful as we moved forward in developing the story.”
They shaped the musical and Dear Evan Hansen premiered in 2015 at the Arena Stage in Washington DC and then went Off-Broadway to the Second Stage Theatre in early 2016. Very quickly, in December 2016 the production moved to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway where it continues to sell-out. — we know, as we’ve tried SEVERAL times to nab tickets! Dear Evan Hansen now has four productions in the works with this new company here in Toronto as its international debut. “David Mirvish believed in the show early and he has the most beautiful theatres in Toronto,” said Mindich. “We are so excited for Toronto audiences to hear and feel the music and the words.”
Audiences have been connecting to the show that explores issues many people face today, particularly the youth and families. Mental health, suicide, social media on top of all the experiences and struggles of teens today bring this musical together with hope and reminding us all that you are not alone — and yes, “You Will Be Found” will be THAT song that will will stick with you forever.
More stories to come. Stay tuned!
Dear Evan Hansen is now on stage until June 30th. at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto with Mirvish Productions. For more information visit www.mirvish.com
*Note: Mirvish has announced Student Rush Tickets available for each show. More details on their site.