Justin Paul is no stranger to Broadway.
Growing up in Westport, he saw plenty of shows on the Great White Way — and dreamed of getting there one day himself.
In 2012, he and his writing partner Benj Pasek made their Broadway debut with “A Christmas Story.”
Next month, the 2003 Staples grad is back. “Dear Evan Hansen” — the darkly funny show he and Pasek wrote that earned Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Helen Hayes Awards during its run at the Second Stage Theater — moves to the Music Box Theatre on 45th Street.
Previews begin on November 14. The official opening night is December 4.
It’s another feather in the cap of the young Westporter. It’s also a ton of work.
The move from a 299-seat theater to one seating 860 demands physical changes — tweaking and adjusting the set, staging and lighting.
It also forces the songwriters to look at ways to make the show “fuller, deeper and richer,” Paul says.
They’re adapting some lyrics, rearranging some music and honing the characters. Paul calls the changes “surgical.” It’s all part of the creative process.
“Dear Evan Hansen” is not your typical Broadway show. With the tagline “a new musical for the outsider in us all,” it focuses on a teenager who becomes involved in another teen’s tragedy. Pasek and Paul tell an important story, one nothing like the adventures of a lion or witches.
Though they’re 2 of the hottest young songwriters in the country, the duo did not set out to write “Dear Evan Hansen” as a Broadway show. They thought the subject matter would appeal to a non-profit company.
But they wanted the play to speak to more than their own generation of millennials. Director Michael Greif (“Rent,” “Next to Normal”) and their producer encouraged them to widen their lens.
The show is based in part on an incident at Pasek’s high school in Philadelphia. But Paul — who met his writing partner at the University of Michigan — also recalled another tragedy: 9/11.
He was a junior at Staples, and remembers the many raw emotions unleashed by that event in his school so close to New York City.
Now “Dear Evan Hansen” has transcended its small-house origins. It’s rare for an original show — not a book or movie adaption — to make the leap to Broadway.
But Westporters know that Justin Paul is a rare songwriter.
Soon, all of Broadway will know it too.
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