It takes a village to create the lush sound of a Broadway musical. From orchestrators to dance arrangers, there's working to make the composer's vision a reality. Today, music director Ben Cohn (Wicked, The Book of Mormon) explains the creation of the "virtual community voices" heard in Dear Evan Hansen.
At the heart of Dear Evan Hansen is the story of eight people who are finding their way in a world that can be very isolating, overwhelming and complicated. Whether in high school or long past school, their lives are deeply affected by their loved ones and the people around them. The added element of an online community has made all of our lives way more intricate and often convoluted in recent years. As we follow the story lines of Evan and the others, the online community, or virtual community, in its often anonymous and unreasonably judgmental way, plays a key role in how events play out.
There are two moments in the show where we hear from people who are not our eight cast members in the form of internet posts and responses to events. The first is at the end of Act 1 when a video of Evan goes viral and is embraced by people around the world who identify with his words and find comfort in their own lives through his response to tragedy. During the song "You Will Be Found", the virtual community internet responses are woven into the music and then they join our cast in singing part of the song, bringing together the experiences of our characters and those of people from all over.
Towards the end of Act 2, the virtual community again appears in a reprise of "You Will Be Found". This time they are attacking a family in a perhaps unfair way, highlighting the anonymous and very subjective nature of the internet.
These voices can be heard on the Dear Evan Hansen cast album during "You Will Be Found" (the reprise is not on the album).
When we first decided that the online community would be represented in this way, we approached amazing actor/singers we knew from the Broadway community. Some had been involved in past incarnations of the show and others are just other awesome people that members of the team have worked with prior. It's a super talented group of people who sound awesome on the album and in the theatre.
The two moments in the show where the virtual community comes to life are powerful reminders of how large a role the internet has played in all of our lives. They serve as a reminder of how our actions in real life and virtually can profoundly affect the lives of others in both positive and negative ways.
Learn more about Broadway music teams in our episode on Music Departments here.