On June 11, Ben Platt is probably going to win the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. There are certain Tonys every year that are almost certainly sure things, runaway favorites, and this is one of them. Last year, Broadway fans knew that Hamilton was nearly guaranteed to win Best Musical; this year, they know Platt is probably going to win Best Actor. On Monday night, he appeared on The Late Show to show everyone why.
Platt plays the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, a musical that feels like the kind of mumblecore indie teen movie Michael Cera or Jesse Eisenberg would have starred in 10 years ago, but twitchier and weirder and more earnest: Zombieland with more feelings. It’s a show that lives and dies by Platt’s nervy, vulnerable performance.
Evan Hansen is an anxious and depressed teenager with no friends. But after his classmate Connor Murphy dies by suicide, Connor’s parents become convinced that Connor and Evan were best friends. And to comfort them, Evan goes along with lie. He doesn’t tell them that he and Connor never spoke and that he found Connor terrifying. In the song “For Forever,” which Platt performed on The Late Show, Evan makes up a story about an ideal friendship, the kind he wishes he had with someone, and tells Connor’s parents it’s true.
Platt’s performance doesn’t transfer perfectly from stage to screen — his nervy emotiveness is pitched to the back of a Broadway theater and can look overdone on a TV screen if you’re not used to it — but at its core is an unnerving vulnerability lurking anxiously under the soaring warmth of his voice. It feels almost cruel to watch him, but it’s also impossible not to.
“At times Mr. Platt’s performance feels so exposed that you want to look away, to give him some breathing room,” Charles Isherwood wrote in the New York Times’s review of Dear Evan Hansen. “But it’s impossible. Mr. Platt draws us so deeply into the character’s psyche that it would be like looking in a mirror and trying not to see your reflection.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Platt appeared on The Late Late Show. He appeared on The Late Show.