Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How “Dear Evan Hansen” and “La La Land”– Maybe the 2017 Tony and Oscar Winners– Are Related


You haven’t seen “La La Land” yet because it hasn’t opened, but when that movie hits theatres in the next couple of weeks, you’ll see what all the excitement’s about.

Tonight (Sunday) brought that movie’s cousin, “DearĀ  Evan Hansen,” to Broadway and it’s a smash hit. Star Ben Platt is really a star, the whole cast is wonderful, and the songs– especially “For Forever”– are going to be almost as big as the songs from “Hamilton.”

But the show and the movie — prospective 2017 Tony and Oscar winners– are related in more ways than one. You see, veteran producer Marc Platt is the producer of each. His son is Ben Platt, now the overnight sensation of “Evan Hansen.” The kid is going to the Tony Awards in June regardless of his lineage.

Now follow this: Damien Chazelle directed “La La Land.” His pal, Justin Hurwitz, wrote the music, but not the lyrics, to all the amazing songs like “City of Stars.” The lyrics were written by Justin Paul and Benje Pasek. And that duo wrote the songs– music and lyrics– to “Evan Hansen.”

Got that?

Talking to everyone last night at the very swanky after party at the Pierre Hotel for “Evan Hansen,” it’s still unclear how all these things came together. Damien and Justin Hurwitz were sent by Lionsgate to Platt to produce “La La Land.” It was a coincidence that Paul and Plasek were working on both projects. It was another coincidence that Ben Platt was Marc’s son and he was starring in the musical. Or something like that.

The main thing to know right now is that the Platts wake up happy Monday morning with a huge hit in “Evan Hansen.” Chazelle was also there last night at the Pierre, everyone knows each other now, and it’s major synergy and synchronicity. The three guys in the picture are Chazelle in the middle surrounded by Pasek and Paul. Hurwitz is in L.A., or La La Land itself.

All the guys are 30, 31. It’s horrifying. I have shoes that old! But the whole thing also reminds me of that moment circa 1973-1974 when Marvin Hamlisch was involved with “The Sting,” “The Way We Were” and Carly Simon’s James Bond song “Nobody Does it Better.” Lots of young writers were all attached to that hub and there so much creativity. Is that moment back? Wouldn’t it be nice if it were?

Also at the “Evan Hansen” premiere: Tina Fey, Aaron Tveit, Sutton Foster, and my old pal Zachary Quinto. And the party at the Pierre? I haven’t seen a dessert table like that since Jason Schwartz’s bar mitzvah in 1970. These people know they have a hit!

PS “Evan Hansen” has an impressive supporting cast including Rachel Bay Jones, who is quite wonderful as Evan’s mom, and Michael Park of “As the World Turns” fame who finally gets a meaty featured role. He’s been working hard on Broadway since the soap folded in 2013.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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