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How the DC-Born Musical “Dear Evan Hansen” Conquered the World

As it returns to the city of its birth, a look back at its journey.

Photograph by Matthew Murphy.

The musical Dear Evan Hansen got its start at Arena Stage before be­coming a Broadway phenomenon. In honor of its return to DC, here’s a look back at its amazing trajectory.

July 2014

Producers approach Arena Stage with an untitled show about a shy teenager. When artistic director Molly Smith first listens to a demo recording of “Waving Through a Window” on her computer, she yells for Arena executive producer Edgar Dobie to run in and listen.

February 2015

Arena announces that the project will premiere there later that year, with songs by longtime collaborators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Bethesda native Steven Levenson.

May 2015

Actor Ben Platt, best known from the Pitch Perfect movies, signs on to play the title role.

July 2015

Opening night at Arena attracts Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other local luminaries.

August 2015

Buzz quickly builds. The Washington Post’s review calls the musical, directed by Michael Greif, “heart-piercingly lovely.”

August 2015

That was fast: Dear Evan Hansen inks a deal to move from DC to off-Broadway.

May 2016

It opens at Second Stage Theatre in New York, then graduates to Broadway that fall. It’s nominated for nine Tonys—winning six, including Best Musical—and becomes an international sensation.

April 2018

The Kennedy Center announces that Dear Evan Hansen will return to DC for the first time since it moved to New York.

August 2019

Almost exactly four years after its DC premiere, it opens in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Meanwhile, a copy of a Playbill from the original Arena Stage run is going for more than $250 on eBay. Check your junk drawer!

Dear Evan Hansen ($79-$175) runs at the Kennedy Center through September 8.

This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Washingtonian.