On Friday, my mom and I went to the Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel tour stop at Anderson’s Bookstore. This was way more than a book signing, it was a musical event! It was the perfect way for us to get a little taste of the musical since I got my mom tickets for us to see the show together in February for her 70th birthday!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this tour. The info about the event said that there would be musical performances, but I was surprised by how many we got. I expected the show creators to play a tune or two, but it was much more than that!
They started the night off with a local high school choir performing one of the songs (I think it was “You Will Be Found” but I didn’t write it down, and I don’t remember for sure). I thought it was fantastic that they got a local high school involved with the event. They did a great job with the song, but more than that, their presence added something special to the night.
Then Kris Vire, a writer and theater critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, interviewed the guys for a bit. They went back and forth between song performances and interviewing, but I’m going to give you all the bullet points from the interview here.
- The musical started out being much more cynical than it ended up. It focused on the hypocrisy of people who react to a tragic death by making themselves out to be the person’s friend when they barely knew them. This happens often, especially with today’s focus on social media.
- But then they started to ask themselves, why do so many people feel the need to put themselves in the limelight in these sorts of situations.
- We are living in a time where we’re more connected than ever, but also more alone.
- So they asked, who is a person who would most need a connection, a community? And Evan Hansen was born.
- Why make the play into a novel?
- They were getting letters from people, especially teens, who had been affected by the play in some way. Kids who were dealing with mental health issues or suicide and connected to the show.
- They realize that a Broadway play is not accessible to everyone. They can only reach 1000-2000 people per night, and those are only people who live nearby and are able to afford a ticket to a Broadway show.
- They wanted to democratize the experience and give more people access to these messages, which had obviously struck a chord with a lot of people.
- How did they make it into a novel?
- They approached Val to write it. At first, he thought it was a crazy idea because the show is so popular—he didn’t think he could live up to that. (He called it a fool’s errand and said he’s glad he was foolish enough to try it.)
- Val worked closely with the show’s creators. At first he wrote larger passages and they would go through it and give notes, but by the end there was a lot of back and forth to tweak things (right down to single word changes sometimes).
- Benji and Justin said they were able to share some of their wisdom with Val so that he didn’t make some of the mistakes they’d made with the characters in early drafts.
- Adding Connor to the book:
- Val proposed adding Connor’s POV (we get his narration as he sees the events unfold as a sort of spirit).
- In the play, we only see the version of Connor that everyone else wants or needs—he never gets his own voice. But they decided to add his voice to the mix so that we could understand him better.
- The show creators had a full backstory for Connor but it couldn’t really go into the play because they needed the play to focus on Evan so that he’d be a sympathetic character. They saw an opportunity to expand on that in the book.
- Val mentioned that it was important to them to handle his character and his suicide with care.
In addition to the interviews, Val read the prologue, which is told from Connor’s POV. Since Val is an actor, it was a lot more engaging than your average reading. Other performances: Benji sang “Waving Through a Window,” Val sang “If I Could Tell Her,” Broadway performers Jessica Fontana, Marya Grandy and Alexis Roston sang “Requiem”, “So Big, So Small” (Yay!! My favorite!!) and “You Will Be Found.”
Overall, it was a pretty fantastic night. If you have a chance to see these guys on the book tour, I highly recommend that you go. It’s more than just a signing (though we did get pre-signed books), it’s a true event.
I’m about 60% through the book, by the way, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s pretty much exactly what I would expect based on the musical, and I love getting a deeper perspective into these characters!
I love recaps of bookish events so much!
Have not seen it but have heard some of the songs. I have the signed ARC but have not read it.
October was a big month for bookish events for me, so I had lots to share!
This sounds like such fun! I love that they performed as well as answered questions. I haven’t seen the musical, but I love the premise and it’s coming near me next year and I HOPE I can get tickets. That’s cool Connor’s POV was added in the book – that’s one part I really liked when I read it, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t something originally in the musical. I like the reasoning behind turning the musical into a book and I definitely agree it’s full of messages people should hear- especially younger people!
I haven’t seen the musical yet, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack, and I love it!
This sounds amazing. I am not a huge musical person–I like them fine, but don’t seek them out or get really into them–so I didn’t even realize that the book was based on a musical until recently. This reminds me of seeing Kwame Alexander last weekend, and how he said he’d gotten really burned out on book touring, then he invited a good friend who plays electric guitar along, so now it’s a lot more fun. I hope these guys have fun touring with each other and including music too!
I used to be a huge nerd when it came to musicals, but I haven’t kept up with them in recent years. I’ve obviously been missing out!
Wow, this sounds amazing! I’m glad you’re enjoying the book so far too!
It was amazing!!
I loved this book event. It was great! I am so looking forward to seeing the play in February. Can’t wait. I just finished the book and really enjoyed it. I thought it was great they included Connor’s point of view. Thanks Nicole for introducing me to “Dear Evan Hansen”!
I can’t WAIT to see the show with you. Can February get here sooner?
That is so cool that you and your mom are going to see this for her birthday!! I have the book, but was super curious how in the world it would work as a book– now I guess I know! I really like that they added a POV, so it seems like readers get some sort of inside insight that the play watchers don’t get. Also, I thought that was a nice thought for them to make the story more accessible to be able to touch more ppl (although the cynical side of me thinks that money also had something to do with their thoughts– lol). Thanks for sharing– I always like your event recaps!!
I’m sure money did have a thing or two to do with it—but I don’t begrudge them that. 🙂
This sounds like the coolest author event! I like that they had a high school choir preform. I haven’t heard of the book or the musical. It seems like something I’d enjoy.
I thought the choir was a really nice local touch and a great way to get students involved.
I have heard a lot, both about the book and the musical, but haven’t seen nor read them. I’m very curious about it though, everyone is talking about it and it sounds quite great. This seems like it was such an amazing event, thank you so much for taking the time to write this down 😀 I’m glad you’re enjoying the book as well 🙂
I’ve been listening to the soundtrack with Amazon Prime, and I love it!
If they are anywhere near Denver I’m taking my younger daughter. (ha! she’ll be 18 next month!) She LOVES Dear Evan Hansen and saw the musical here in Denver a few weeks ago. She went with her boyfriend and some friends and I asked her if it was something I should see…she said she’d love to see it again with me. 🙂 I’m not sure if she even knows the did a novel but I know she’ll want it and she’ll want to see the book tour too! I’m happy you had such a great time, Nicole!
Doesn’t look like the book tour is going to Denver, unfortunately. Maybe they’ll extend it.
What a fascinating event! One of my bookish friends would love this type of event, she is SO into musicals. And I love how much it made the audience question and think about certain issues. I’ve never even heard of anything like this before but I’m so glad that you got to experience it! Fabulous wrap-up Nicole!
I used to be a huge fan of musicals, but I haven’t followed them lately. I’ve obviously been missing out!
This sounds so cool. I’m kind of a theater junkie, so I’ve been wanting to see the musical but so far haven’t gotten around to it yet. I love that they got the high school chorus involved with the event too. If this event is ever in my neck of the woods, I could definitely see myself going to it.
I used to LOVE musicals when I was younger, and I’ve sort of let that fade over the years. This has reminded me that I need to get plugged back into that scene.