There is a moment in Act 2 of Dear Evan Hansen when the sound of sniffling in the audience nearly overtakes the dialogue between the actors onstage. It comes shortly after the titular character, played by Ben Platt, has a tearful breakdown, and the crying grows louder with the gut punch of “So Big/So Small.” As Evan’s mother, Rachel Bay Jones sings the bittersweet number about how Evan’s father left and why she never will. By the end, many are audibly stifling sobs.
Songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul swear they’re not trying to make anyone cry, but their catalog — which is both lengthy and lauded for a pair of 31-year-olds — reveals plenty of tearjerkers. There are the heartrending lyrics of “Lying There,” a love song about not being in love, from their first collaboration Edges: “I wish I could love you, but wishing I could love you isn’t really loving, I suppose.” The Act 1 closer of their off-Broadway musical Dogfight, “Pretty Funny,” includes the lines, “Pathetically naïve and desperate to believe you can always find some good. Well, you misunderstood.”
And in the film La La Land, for which Pasek and Paul wrote the lyrics, Emma Stone sings, “Here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make” in the stirring but painful “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).”
“We don’t think about [people crying],” Paul told BuzzFeed News backstage at the Music Box Theatre on New York City’s 45th Street, where Dear Evan Hansen is currently moving audiences to tears eight shows a week.
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