Tag Archives: “Dear Evan Hansen”

Justin Paul Gets His Grammy

Justin Paul has done it again!

The 2003 Staples High School graduate and his songwriting partner Benj Pasek snagged a Grammy today.

“Dear Evan Hansen” won for Best Musical Theater Album.

Most songwriters would consider that a career-capping coup.

But for Pasek and Paul — neither of them old enough yet to run for president — the Grammy is merely one more award in a year that’s been packed with them.

The duo have already won an Oscar (for “La La Land”) and a Tony (“Dear Evan Hansen”).

Justin Paul (left) and Benj Pasek, accepting their Tony Award last year.

If they receive an Emmy, they’ll not just have the exalted status of EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar Tony). They’ll be the youngest ever.

And the fastest.

Of the 12 EGOT performers, the youngest so far is composer Robert Lopez. He was 39 years old — and it took him 14 years.

The Vulture website says:

It’s possible that they could complete entertainment’s holy grail later this year if nominated for their work on Fox’s A Christmas Story Live!, which they wrote just as they did the original Broadway production it was based on. Say they don’t do it then? No matter: They can just ask their good friend Damien Chazelle to let them do the music for his new TV projects, or, really, just put their golden touch on anything televised.

Then again, Pasek and Paul might invent their own category: EGOTGG.

Earlier this month they earned a Golden Globe for “Best original song, motion picture” for “This Is Me,” from “The Greatest Showman.”

Move over, PT Barnum. Justin Paul and Benj Pasek may well be the greatest showmen ever.

(Hat tips: Beth Cody and Lyn Hogan)

Justin Paul: Yesterday, And 2002

Last night was another big milestone for Justin Paul.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate and his writing partner Benj Pasek won a Tony Award for Best Original Score (“Dear Evan Hansen”). They shared another later in the evening, as the show was named Best Musical.

Before the ceremony, NY1 caught up with the white-hot duo on the red carpet. During the brief interview, Paul named David Roth (Staples High School), Ben Frimmer (Coleytown Middle School) and Kevin Connors (Music Theatre of Connecticut) as important influences while growing up.

Here’s the video:

Meanwhile, retired media teacher Jim Honeycutt unearthed this video of Paul as a senior, when he performed in Roth’s Staples Players production of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

Here’s his solo of “Growing Up.”

He certainly has!

Benj Pasek (left) and Justin Paul (3rd from left) celebrate at the Tonys last night with Paul’s wife Asher and Coleytown Middle School director Ben Frimmer.

(Hat tip: Hedi Ann Lieberman)


And The Tony Award For Best Original Score Goes To …

… who else?

Justin Paul capped a monster year with Broadway’s most prestigious honor, for the mega-smash “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The duo later shared another Tony, as the show was named Best Musical.

Earlier this winter, the 2003 Staples High School grad — and songwriting partner Benj Pasek — earned Oscars and Golden Globes for “City of Stars,” their signature song from “La La Land.”

There are many more awards to come, for the hottest young songwriters on stage and screen.

But chances are the former Staples Players star will never forget his first ones.

Justin Paul (left) and Benj Pasek, accepting their Tony Award tonight.

Justin Paul (And Evan Hansen) Hit Broadway

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.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

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.

(For more information on “Dear Evan Hansen” — and tickets — click here. BONUS NEWS: Carol King reports that Pasek and Paul are writing the music for Disney’s upcoming remake of “Snow White.”)

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Justin Paul: Back To Broadway!

Dear Evan Hansen” — the award-winning musical now finishing an off-Broadway run — is headed to the big stage.

When the darkly funny show — whose tagline is “a new musical for the outsider in us all” — opens at a Shubert theater in November, it will mark the 2nd Broadway credit for Justin Paul.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

Justin Paul (right) and Benj Pasek.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate, with songwriting partner Benj Pasek, made their debut in 2012 with “A Christmas Story.”

They’ve also earned critical acclaim with “Dogfight,” “Edges” and “James and the Giant Peach,” while their original songs have been featured on NBC’s “Smash.”

Pasek and Paul are graduates of the University of Michigan and winners of the 2007 Jonathan Larson Award, named after the late “Rent” composer, that honors achievement by composers, lyricists and librettists.

The young composers received an Obie for their work on “Dear Evan Hansen.” That show also earned an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical, and a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical.

Dear Evan Hansen - logo

(Hat tips: Carol King and David Roth)

Justin Paul Juggles New Play, New Baby

Justin Paul’s life sounds like the plot of a play. He’s racing to finish his latest project on a tight deadline — while simultaneously welcoming his 1st child into the world.

The “play” metaphor is apt. Justin and Benj Pasek — America’s hottest young songwriting team — are putting the finishing touches on an exciting new off-Broadway production: “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Justin Paul

Justin Paul

Justin and his wife Asher’s baby was a couple of days late. He calls those extra hours of morning-to-late-night rehearsals, rewriting and tweaking “a gift before my world turned upside down.”

Boom! On Thursday, Emerson arrived. Only a new baby could divert Justin from the manic process of bringing a new show to New York.

Here’s the back story.

Justin — a 2003 Staples High School graduate — met his songwriting partner at the University of Michigan. They earned a 2007 Jonathan Larson grant as voices of a new generation, then went on to compose music and lyrics for “A Christmas Story,” “Dogfight,” “Edges” and “James and the Giant Peach.” Their songs were featured on NBC’s “Smash.”

“Dear Evan Hansen” is nothing like those.

The production notes say:

All his life Evan Hansen has felt invisible. To his peers, to the girl he loves, sometimes even to his own mother. But that was before he wrote the letter — that led to the incident — that started the lie — that ignited a movement – that inspired a community — and changed Evan’s status from the ultimate outsider into the somebody everyone wants to know. But how long can Evan keep his secret? And at what price?

Dear Evan Hansen - logo

Justin adds:

Evan Hansen is a lonely, isolated high school kid. His social anxiety is magnified by his hyper-connected digital life. But that’s not his only connection. The show is about the importance of connections during tragedy.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is complicated and intriguing. It is also, Justin says, “darkly funny.” The advertising tagline is: “A new musical for the outsider in us all.”

The book was inspired by an event at Benj’s high school. The pair kicked the idea for a play around in college, but could not figure out how to turn it into a musical. Now — with the book by Steven Levenson — they’ve done it.

Justin and Benj were high school students during 9/11. Justin remembers the urgent need during that awful time for people to come together, feel community, and examine their humanity. It’s a theme he’s wanted to tackle ever since.

“The chance to write an original story and musical is very rare,” Justin says. “The chance we get to tell this story — in our voice — is great. We have incredible freedom, and it comes from our hearts.”

Benj Pasek (left) and Justin Paul.

Benj Pasek (left) and Justin Paul.

Impending fatherhood intersected with the premiere of his new show in fascinating ways.

“Being a father for the first time is frightening,” Justin admits. “And the story is about a boy and his mother who don’t really connect. They’re pulled in different directions.”

This winter — during the sold-out run in Washington, DC — Justin and Benj were struck by how often a parent would see the show, then return later with a child. Or vice versa.

The Washington Post called the play “entertainingly smart … radiating charm, wit and humor.”

One song was written during a tough time for Justin and his wife. Hearing it each night during rehearsals, those raw emotions return.

A scene from "Dear Evan Hansen."

A scene from “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Previews have already begun. “Nothing crashed to the ground,” Justin says with relief. “We’re on our path to opening night.”

That date is May 1, at Second Stage Theatre. The cast is rehearsing 5 hours a day. They take a break, then perform for audiences at night. Each day, there are script and lighting changes.

“The ground constantly shifts,” Justin says. “It’s topsy-turvy, but fun. It’s musical theater boot camp.”

And for the next act — add a baby!

(For show times, tickets and more information, click here.)