The Dear Evan Hansen The film was an opportunity for screenwriter Steven Levneson to revisit material he had started working on almost ten years ago. He had safety from familiar sources (having won a Tony in 2017 for writing the book of the musical), which presented both an asset and a challenge: what is the line between honoring the series’ success and the reshuffle?
“You know it back and forth,” says Levenson, “but what I found in the first few weeks was that I had to forget about it. I had to learn to look at it totally fresh.
Two unfortunate circumstances that ultimately helped this: the stage show was on hiatus for much of development and production (filming took place under COVID protocols last fall) and a sharper socio-political context. When the show – about a high school student lie getting out of hand on social media – debuted on Broadway, Trump was not sworn in (or impeached for using social media lies).
The reassessment of the scale of Evan’s actions led to the decision to flesh out the final act of the story, with the aim of emphasizing the character’s responsibility to redeem himself. On stage, the audience doesn’t see Evan making a public admission, nor the steps he takes before receiving a closing. While audiences and critics have been making these points since the show’s premiere, Levenson doesn’t view these responses as a factor in changing the film as much as it does the broader societal conversations about accountability and its impact. about him: “As artists we change and grow with hope, and I have come to believe that Evan deserves to take responsibility for what he has done in public.
Translating the show for the screen also came with more technical challenges, removing certain moments (some songs, acknowledged Levenson and songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, only worked on stage) to new construction (see above). In addition to his familiar collaborators, new collaborators helped bring the story to life, including director Stephen Chbosky and cinematographer Brandon Trost. While the libretto of a musical can be used and performed to create countless different settings, Levenson’s screenplay had to communicate directly to his fellow creators to paint a definitive picture – a picture decidedly less objective than could possibly be. frame the proscenium.
“It’s much more of a guided experience,” he explains. “You’re really trying to guide the director, the heads of departments and the actors through what we’re actually seeing on screen at that point.”
READ: Casts confirmed for Broadway return, London and touring Dear Evan Hansen
In the annotated pages of the Dear Evan Hansen screenplay below, Levenson sheds light on his screenwriting process, delving deeper into the challenges of writing for a closer look, expanding the character world and reworking the structure of the source material.
Dear Evan Hansen arrives in theaters on September 24. Broadway production of the musical will resume on December 11.