justin paul

REVIEW: “Dear Evan Hansen” by Val Emmich

51t4hrr2yllI’m on the record as not being a particularly big fan of the musical Dear Evan Hansen. I always found Evan to be a super unlikable character (what with the whole lying to a grieving family for the entirety of the musical thing) and so that made it a bit hard to fully connect with the, admittedly interesting, plot. But my bigger problem with the musical was the songs. I just didn’t like them. They didn’t work for me. They didn’t feel like they were serving the story and they just sorta brought everything down. So, when I saw that Hachette Book Group was publishing a novelization of the musical, I figured I’d give it a shot. I did like the plot of the musical, and novels often make even the most unlikable character sympathetic in ways that more visual mediums aren’t able to. I’m happy to report that while Val Emmich’s novelization of the musical still has that one pretty big flaw in relation to Evan as a character, the novel is far more enjoyable than the musical is.

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen, Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s griefover the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend.As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

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This Isn’t the Greatest Show (“The Greatest Showman” REVIEW)

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The truly amazing thing about The Greatest Showman is the utter commitment and dedication the actors show to such mediocre material. And, on that note, it’s kind of a miracle that the music is somehow not the worst part of the film (and I really don’t care for Pasek and Paul’s music; they’re not bad, I just find them utterly mediocre and forgettable). Written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, directed by newcomer Michael Gracey (with reshoots and edits allegedly by James Mangold), and featuring songs from Tony and Academy Award-winning songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, The Greatest Showman tells the story of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and his rise to fame through the advent of his famous circus, Barnum’s Circus. Joined by Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and more, The Greatest Showman explores the lives of those around Barnum and how he and his circus forever changed the theatrical experience. (Mild spoilers ahead)

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Some Thoughts on “The Greatest Showman” Soundtrack, “A Christmas Story Live!”, and Pasek and Paul

pasekpaul7473rtsmallIt never truly feels like Christmas for me unless there’s some kind of musical event in either the television or film world. Whether it’s a new movie musical for Hollywood or another one of those live musicals on TV (via NBC or FOX), a big part of my Christmas tradition nowadays is a new musical to watch and enjoy right before the big holiday. This year was no exception, bringing two musicals to my eyeballs. FOX just aired A Christmas Story Live! this past weekend (with a book by Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins and music and lyrics by the songwriting duo Pasek and Paul) and 20th Century Fox is releasing a new movie musical about P.T. Barnum (of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame) directed by Michael Gracey, with a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon and music and lyrics by Pasek and Paul. You might have noticed a theme there with both of this year’s big, new musical offerings: they both feature the music of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Fresh off their recent success with Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, Pasek and Paul have written original lyrics and music for The Greatest Showman as well as composing a new song for the live telecast of their 2012 Broadway musical A Christmas Story. (Also of note: one of last year’s big musical offerings, La La Land, also featured the lyrics of Pasek and Paul.) So with Pasek and Paul taking over my screens in both of the big new filmed musical offerings, I thought it worthwhile to give my thoughts on the soundtrack for The Greatest Showman (I haven’t seen the movie yet), FOX’s telecast of A Christmas Story Live!, and my general thoughts on the music of Pasek and Paul.  (more…)