Ben Platt has been singing "Waving Through a Window" onstage in Dear Evan Hansen for most of the past two years. Soon, he'll be waving goodbye.
It's rare to see an actor connect with a role so completely and seemingly definitively as Platt has done here. Reviewing the show on Broadway, where it moved after an Off Broadway premiere at Second Stage Theater earlier in 2016, I wrote: "What does it look like when a star is born? In the case of Ben Platt, the astonishing young actor who plays the title role in Dear Evan Hansen, it’s a bit like an actual birth: beautiful but strange and wet, tinged with confusion and danger. Platt’s performance extends that to his whole body; when he sings, his face often gleams with sweat. Yet the effect is not off-putting; Evan is immensely lovable, even when he makes terrible mistakes. He speaks in rushes of instant regret, as though frantically digging a hole to bury himself in, and his intense awkwardness is filtered through first-rate comic timing, high-wire dramatic acting and a gorgeously expressive tenor voice. Simply put: Platt is giving one of the greatest leading male performances I’ve ever seen in a musical, and the thrillingly modern and moving Dear Evan Hansen is worthy of it."
I meant what I said about "greatest." For me, Platt's performance is up there with the best I've ever seen from a man in a musical: Nathan Lane in The Producers, Alan Cumming in Cabaret, Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz, John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. (It earned him, among many other accolades, a 2017 Tony Award.) But his run couldn't last for forever. Today Dear Evan Hansen confirmed that, after playing the part for a year on Broadway, Platt will leave the production on November 19.
Can Dear Evan Hansen survive without Ben Platt? I think it can. It's a powerfully written and directed show, with a score that has been warmly embraced by musical-theater lovers across the country, including many young ones. And the role of Evan was not just a platform for Platt's talents; it is a rich, challenging part that many young singing actors could soar in. (My own dream casting—assuming he could sing it, and that he could get out of Hello, Dolly!—would be the tremendously gifted Taylor Trensch.)
Tickets for the remainder of Platt's run are available but pricey. If you can't see Platt in person, content yourself with the cast album and with performances like the one below, from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.