A novel based on a Broadway show is a rare thing — but there’s one on the shelves now, thanks to the recently released young-adult adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen.” And fans of the musical, take note: There’s a lot in the book that you don’t see in the musical.
“As this was an original musical and we kind of developed it from the ground up, there’s so much that got left on the cutting room floor, and so many ideas and so many tangents that just kind of got lopped off as we went along,” said Steven Levenson, the Tony-winning book writer of the “Dear Evan Hansen” musical, on the latest episode of Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft.” “And then also, some questions emerged as we wrote it that we just couldn’t answer in the span of a two-and-a-half-hour musical.”
Probably the biggest addition that the novel makes to “Dear Evan Hansen”: a good look at Connor, the character who only really appears in the earliest scenes of the musical before he takes his own life. In the novel, readers spend significantly more time getting to know Connor and seeing things from his perspective.
“It really is ultimately the story of two boys, and how one boy could have gone in the direction of the other boy very, very easily,” said “Dear Evan Hansen” co-composer Benj Pasek, who appeared on “Stagecraft” along with Levenson, his songwriting partner Justin Paul, and Val Emmich (“The Reminders”), the musician-author-actor who wrote the novel in collaboration with the trio. “We get to learn a lot more about a character that’s really enigmatic in the show. We get to really dive into that character and hear what’s going on in his own psychological state.”
Emmich developed his approach to the story in tandem with the show’s creators. “One of the big things they wanted was: Let’s hear about some of these things that are sort of iconic in the musical. Connor threw a printer at Mrs G in second grade, [something] that everyone knows about, this legend — What really happened? We got to do fun stuff like that, and that was directly the guys saying, ‘Can you show the real Connor? Let’s figure out who the real Connor is.'”
Meanwhile, a lot of the novel is told directly from Evan’s point of view — which is another thing that makes it different from the musical.
“There’s actually very few moments in the show where Evan turns downstage and sings to us and tells us, just us, in a private connection with the audience, what he’s feeling,” Paul said. So in the novel, “it feels like, even in the moments from the show that are in the book, you feel like you’re experiencing them for the first time, because it’s actually from his point of view, and you’re hearing the constant running dialogue in his head.”
The Oscar and Tony-winning team of Pasek and Paul also gave the latest updates — or non-updates — on rumored stage versions of “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land,” two films on which they worked, while Levenson talked up “Fosse/Verdon,” the theater-centric show he’s working on with exec producers Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail.
New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunes, Stitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.