For Forever: Ben Platt’s Final Performance Of Dear Evan Hansen
It is difficult to recognize a once-in-a-lifetime moment when it’s happening. We strive to adhere to the principle of “living in the moment” but it is a hard concept to wrap your head around when there are so many things to think about every second of the day. It is one of many reasons people go to the theater: to escape reality and immerse themselves in a world either better or simply different than their own.
I had one of these experiences on Sunday, November 19th.
You know you’re in the presence of something special when the lights go up at the start of a show, immediately followed by a three-minute standing ovation before a word of dialogue has been spoken or a note of a song has been sung. Such was the case on Sunday afternoon at The Music Box Theatre, as Tony Award-winner Ben Platt performed one last time as Evan Hansen. By a stroke of good luck, I was fortunate to be sitting in the orchestra section at the performance with my mom, a new Broadway convert thanks to this show, and I truly could not believe I was there until I sat down in my seat and the lights went down. As hard as I could try to put the experience into adequate words, it was something beautifully indescribable.
So I will talk about a few other things that struck me as I sat in the midst of the most electric, appreciative, and supportive crowd I have ever been a part of in the 15 years I have been attending Broadway shows. The moment the lights went up on Ben Platt sitting, almost iconically, on his bed, the entire crowd stood up in unison. There was cheering, shouts of “Bravo” and incessant clapping that lasted about three minutes. (That is not an exaggeration). Throughout this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle I was witnessing, I couldn’t take my eyes off Platt who, despite his best efforts, began crying with gratitude and broke character for a moment to look out into a sold-out crowd of devoted friends, family and supporters from all over the world. This was an ongoing theme throughout the show, as with each actor’s entrance the audience erupted into applause and cheers. It was quite obviously all about Platt, yet the audience acknowledged how important each of the other characters were to helping him tell Evan’s story.
The collective bond amongst the cast and raw emotion was tangible. Isn’t that what live theater is all about?
Connecting with the actors portraying these characters and relationships onstage? Though this is normally the case with the stellar cast of Dear Evan Hansen, it was especially heightened in this performance. Each actor had their own moment onstage within either dialogue or song to say “goodbye” to Platt. Though each was subtle, it did not go unnoticed by the audience, who felt the realness of the situation and cried right along with them in this emotionally charged performance.
This is when I realized how unifying theater can be. Here I was sitting in a crowd of strangers from different cultures, backgrounds and belief systems and yet we were all feeling the same emotions and feeling empathy for those onstage.
We cried together, laughed together, and felt the same immense appreciation for the experience we were sharing, proving that despite the animosity we witness in the world on a daily basis, human beings are not so different after all.
Through his legendary performance, Platt drew in political figures, pop culture superstars, television and movie actors to this show. I cannot think of another instance where so many people who walk such different roads of “show business” were brought together in this way. I am even more thankful that the cast is diligent about their Instagram accounts and documented all of these impressive audience members.
Even for someone who has done theatre for their entire life, it is very rare that one performance by one actor (not much older than yourself) can make such a profound impact, invoke a standing ovation within seconds of the show’s start (I will never get over it), and unite thousands of people with tears and laughter. Seeing Ben Platt’s final performance in Dear Evan Hansen is one I will never forget.
Thank you, Ben Platt, for your heart, soul, this beautiful story and so many moments that I will treasure ‘for forever’.
Also by Mena Buscetto:
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