It was announced today that, after a competitive auction, publishers Little, Brown has acquired a novelization of the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen and will be releasing the young adult title this fall.
The musical opened off-Broadway in April 2016, made the transfer to Broadway in November, and dominated the 2017 Tony awards, including Best Actor for Ben Platt, whose portrayal of the eponymous Evan, a teenager with severe anxiety, received universal acclaim.
Platt also performed at the 2018 Grammys, where Dear Evan Hansen picked up Best Musical Theater Album, and the show and its composers, dynamic duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, have become something like heirs to Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton in terms of a theater phenomenon transcending the Broadway bubble and becoming huge players in the wider pop culture zeitgeist.
This popularity, of course, led to the show becoming almost impossible to see live, with tickets to every performance – particularly while Platt was still in the role – selling out immediately and being resold for absurdly high prices.
But one big difference between the circumstances of Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton is their form – Hamilton is completely sung-through, and so the entire story is available for fans in audio form only – you can still know Hamilton word-for-word without seeing it live.
Dear Evan Hansen is a book musical – it’s an extremely dialogue-heavy show, and while the interjected songs are powerful, the soundtrack is nowhere near the entire story. To know Evan’s story, and why it’s so important and so moving, you kind of have to see the whole thing.
That’s why this book adaptation is such amazing news – Broadway is so famously inaccessible, and there’s no better way to share Dear Evan Hansen with those who have’t been able to see it in person than by creating a novelization that dives even deeper into the story and the inner minds of all the characters.
Composers Pasek and Paul and the musical’s playwright Steven Levenson will be joined by actor, musician and novelist Val Emmich to in this collaboration for Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel – Emmich was tipped for the job by the creators themselves.
As this New York Times interview with Emmich mentions, a book to stage (or screen) adaptation is as common as they come, but it’s extremely rare for an original theater production to become a novel. Novelizations of movies are often seen as a cheap, unworthy merchandising tactic, but that isn’t even close to what’s going on here.
Theater novels are really a new frontier in the publishing world, and could be a huge step in making Broadway a more accessible medium in a time when the world is screaming for access to these stories. While there’s potential for many more to follow this trend, Dear Evan Hansen is truly the perfect musical to this transfer first, and prove why it’s going to work.
The musical itself is practically a young adult coming-of-age novel onstage. Based on true events that happened during Benj Pasek’s high school experience, Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of a high school senior who incidentally becomes tangled in a web of lies he finds it impossible to extricate himself from when trying to offer comfort after a classmate’s suicide. It’s a story about mental health, and about social media, and about isolation, and Evan’s experiences with these are some of the most honest and resonant to be found across all genres and mediums of storytelling right now.
The announcement for Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel comes immediately off the back of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s March ‘Hamildrop’ – a collaboration between him and Ben Platt. The two singers joined together on a mash-up of Hamilton’s “Story of Tonight” and Dear Evan Hansen’s “You Will Be Found,” deftly put together by Alex Lacamoire, who served as musical director and orchestrator on both shows. “Found/Tonight” is released in support of March for Our Lives – as Miranda says, it’s for the kids.
Dear Evan Hansen is a story that feels like it unequivocally belongs to the youth of today – that this is for them, hearing them, seeing them and validating them, and indeed, it’s even got its own fandom of thousands engaging with it who have never even seen it.
The novel’s release will coincide with Dear Evan Hansen’s national tour, which will hopefully allow more audiences to experience Evan’s story a little more easily in their hometowns, and this novelization is a further hand extended by the creators to that potential audience, offering even more insight and even more access to the story to those who need it the most of all.