By Christopher McKittrick

While the official premiere cutoff date for shows eligible for the 2017 Tony Awards is April 27 and there are many eagerly-anticipated shows yet to open before then, there is already one Broadway musical that has established itself as the show-to-beat: Dear Evan Hansen. The combination of the show’s memorable songs, compelling narrative, and extremely strong reviews has made the musical both an audience favorite and a critical hit.

The titular Evan Hansen isn’t an extraordinary person – in fact, in many ways he’s a typical high school kid with a difficult family life who wants to be respected by his peers. After a more popular student named Connor Murphy commits suicide, Evan becomes more accepted when it is mistakenly believed that he and Connor were close friends. While Evan relishes in his newfound popularity and tries to help Connor’s parents cope with their grief, keeping up the heartbreaking lie is more difficult than Evan could’ve imagined.

Dear Evan Hansen features music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, whose 2012 Off-Broadway musical Dogfight was critically acclaimed. The Pasek and Paul team also polished their songwriting talents by writing several songs for the second season of TV’s Smash. Pasek, Paul, and book writer Steven Levenson developed Dear Evan Hansen with director Michael Greif (who directed the original production of Rent) for a six-week run at Washington DC’s the Arena Stage, later winning the Outstanding Musical Helen Hayes Award. Several months later, Dear Evan Hansen made its New York debut Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theater. Pasek and Paul had reworked several of the songs in between the DC and Off-Broadway runs, and its award success continued with Dear Evan Hansen winning the Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical Outer Critics Circle Award and the Obie Award for Musical Theatre. A move to Broadway was a must.

The acclaimed Off-Broadway run of Dear Evan Hansen might have closed this past May, but interest in the show didn’t dim in the period between the Off-Broadway run closing and the November 14 premiere at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. In the meantime, an interactive social media campaign kept the spirit of the show alive, particularly with the same young theater fans that helped make Hamilton into a national phenomenon. That critical success is expected to continue with the 2017 Drama Desk Awards and the Tony Awards after rave reviews from the press.

Several performers have been involved with the show since its Arena Stage debut, including The Book of Mormon and Pitch Perfect star Ben Platt, who stars as Evan Hansen. Other original cast members include Rachel Bay Jones, Jennifer Laura Thompson, and Laura Dreyfus.

Of course, the show’s popularity has driven up ticket prices, so fans are encouraged to get them now. Dear Evan Hansen tickets can be purchased through Telecharge, where prices range from $69-$175.