My dad’s a Broadway junkie. He’s practically been going to shows his whole life. Often times, he’ll namedrop ones he’s seen, question how many shows he’s seen (”I have all the Playbills”), and tell me on the eve of the Tony Awards that this is his “Oscars.” Just for some context - I’m a movie junkie.
So many memories of growing up are connected to the New York stage. I was raised on it - a little Les Miserables here, a little Miss Saigon there. Speaking of which, I knew about the chopper scene probably two years before it hit 53rd Street on April 11, 1991. As I grew up and traveled into the wonderful world of adolescence, the Broadway bond between father and son continued. I vividly still remember him walking in with Rent tickets during a shift at Blockbuster video, and surprising me with tickets to Ragtime following a day interning for New Line Cinema. Today, we don’t get to as many shows. My father does. He often goes with my mom, but we make it a point to go together at least once a year.
Professionally, I've written countless reviews and interviewed numerous Broadway, film, television and musical talent through the years. I’ve covered the Tony Award red carpet for years. Since my dad instilled this love of theatre in me, I wanted to do something a bit special this year since it marked his 70th birthday. Nothing beats the power of a musical, and a bond between a father and a son, and it was my hope to take my dad to the most buzzed-about show on the Great White Way. Enter Evan Hansen.
I knew Dear Evan Hansen would be a modern classic. My dad did as well, I’m sure, from the second it opened at Arena Stage in DC. With music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book writer Steven Levenson, and star Ben Platt getting so much attention, I knew this would be the perfect gift for my favorite junkie. Last night, while late to the party, we caught the show and it showcased the Broadway dad experience. My dad isn’t your typical Broadway viewer. He’ll pop Mentos during quiet scenes, scratch his back throughout, and almost always let out a resounding “wow” after a big number. He’ll also tell you between songs, on occasion, some fun facts about the show and after some songs tell you how nice they were or “that was the nicest song in the whole show.”
It was no different during Dear Evan Hansen only it was. His quirks were there, but there was a silence, too. By now, the show couldn’t get any more popular. It won big at the Tony’s, Platt is already a legend (let’s not forget fellow Tony winner Rachel Bay Jones and the whole cast), and the show is probably sold out until 2023. From the moment the spotlight fell upon the star of the show to each solo after, the crowd reaction was as loud as a stadium concert. My dad felt it, and I did, too. This isn’t merely a show. It’s a living, breathing thing. Hype can destroy anything. Not here.
Look, by now, you’ve read countless reviews of the show’s story of a 17-year-old loner whose misplaced letter ends up changing the course numerous lives. It tackles themes of love and loneliness, grief and connection - the latter aimed at the loss of intimacy, privacy, and communication at the hands of an out-of-control social media state. But, I’m not going to expand further. I’m going to continue talking about my dad. My dad constantly gazed at me during the show, asked me if I liked it, and told me he knew he “needed” to take me to it. No, I needed to take him to it. For a man who spent his entire life ensuring the arts were central in the lives of his children, it was essential for me to pay it forward. What better way to say thank you than taking him to see a show that will be long remembered when it leaves The Music Box Theatre.
Fittingly, it’s Father’s Day on Sunday. The greatest gift you could give a man with hundreds of Playbills is one of the very best. Ever. But how many of those does he really have I wonder?
About A-Sides with Jon Chattman - thisisasides.com
Jon Chattman’s music/entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles — just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Melissa Etheridge, Yoko Ono, Elle King, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and Bastille.