Opinion: It's Time For An Evan Hansen Whose Arm Is Actually Broken
by Zach Raffio. @zachraffio.
It’s 2019 - a time of change, anxiety, and in some cases, true progress. Our world’s social and political landscape is changing within the blink of an eye, and representation in media is as important as ever. That’s why, as someone who broke his arm during a 6th grade field trip to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site, I feel it’s time for the stage to embrace an Evan Hansen whose arm is ACTUALLY broken.
“Dear Evan Hansen”, the Tony-winning Broadway musical about a socially awkward young man learning to face the consequences of a regrettable mistake, has, for too long, cast leading actors with two fully functioning arms that were NOT broken when Cody Sheffield dared them to jump off the picnic table that they really weren’t supposed to be standing on in the first place. As someone who has had that particular experience, I feel it’s time to bring my story to the stage (especially the part where Vice Principal Carter got mad at ME even though Cody was the one who bet I couldn’t spin all the way around before touching the ground).
In order for Pasek & Paul/s heartbreaking yet inspiring coming-of-age tale to REALLY make an impact, that young actor just has to have a few broken bones in the ol’ waving stick, or at the very least a sprained ligament, like my Dad got when he did too much yard work last Sunday even though my Mom told him to take it easy. I truly don’t imagine a world where the show stays open otherwise.
Take some of these previous Broadway blunders, for example.
The young lead in “Matilda” did not actually have telekinesis, and what happened to that show? Closed like the car door on my hand that time I wasn’t paying attention and closed the car door on my hand.
Cristin Milioti took the lead in “Once” with a fully functioning vacuum at home. She never knew the real struggle of a young woman with a busted Hoover, and for that reason and that reason alone, the show is kaput. I have never owned a vacuum and do not plan to, so I could never play the female lead in Once, and that’s something I accept.
This idea also works in reverse. “Groundhog Day”, for example, famously starred actor Andy Karl while his leg actually was broken, which the part didn’t call for. That was just plain appropriation, and the show closed as a direct result of it.
So, to the producers, cast, and fans of Dear Evan Hansen, please listen: If you want to survive this crazy theatrical battlefield and truly service the story you’re telling, you’ll post an open call to any young man with a real arm injury. It’s the only logical move.
I will not be able to attend for my break was 15 years ago and my arm has since healed, even though it was a pretty gnarly break - and an even gnarlier jump off that picnic table. I wasn’t allowed to go to Mike McGinny’s sleepover that weekend, though, which sucked cause I heard they watched Terminator.