Ever since I saw Dear Evan Hansen with my high school musical theater class on a field trip to New York, I have loved Ben Platt. Even from my nose-bleed seat in the Music Box Theatre, I could see the real tears on his cheeks during his character’s emotional climax. His talent astonished me.
Along with everyone else in my theater class, I fell in awe with Ben Platt that day. It’s almost as if he embodied every awkward Jewish boy I had ever crushed on (I could’ve had my own movie in high/middle school: To All the Nerdy Jewish Boys I’ve Loved Before). On the five-hour bus ride back home to Maryland, my mom — ever the “cool” chaperone — told my friends and me that one of us should snatch that NJB up and marry him (Ben hadn’t publicly come out yet).
In the two years that followed, I watched Ben Platt’s career flourish. I watched him win a Tony for playing Evan Hansen, record a mashup with Lin-Manuel Miranda, land a starring role in a Netflix show, and release an amazing album.
When I saw that Ben Platt’s tour would be stopping in Boston, the city where I attend college, I immediately bought tickets for myself and my best friend, another musical-theater-loving Jew.
As I sat in the beautiful and historic Wang Theatre, I was overcome with emotions for a few reasons. One, the music was phenomenal. It was almost as if his voice had gotten better — something I didn’t even think was possible. Two, his concert was insanely Jewish.
Obviously, I knew Ben Platt was Jewish. But I didn’t expect every other sentence spoken during his concert to be about him being Jewish — and I certainly didn’t expect for it to make me feel so at home.
In the lead-up to “Honest Man,” the third song of the night, Ben told the audience about when he came out to his parents. “I was on a trip to Israel, because when you’re a Jew in middle school, you go to Israel,” he joked. My best friend screamed. I didn’t go to Israel in middle school, but she did. He went on to share about calling his parents late at night from a hotel in Tel Aviv and telling them he was gay.
When talking about his grandmother’s death in a lead-up to “In Case You Don’t Live Forever,” he said it felt like destiny that her funeral timed out perfectly with his tour dates.
“Bashert, if you’re Jewish,” he said, and he didn’t translate the word. I felt like I was in on a special secret, like I was part of the cool kids club.
He talked about a new Harry Potter book coming out when he was at Camp Ramah and stealing a copy from the other Ben in his bunk and writing his last name in the cover. He joked about everyone in his bunk having a Jewish-sounding last name, which as a Schwartz who also went to Jewish sleepaway camp (shoutout to Camp Louise!), I found hilarious.
I’ve always been the girl that everyone knows is Jewish because I find a way to bring it into nearly every conversation. It’s such a fundamental part of who I am that I can’t find one facet of my being that hasn’t been affected by Judaism. So it was incredible to hear somebody as prominent as Ben Platt talk about being Jewish as much as I do.
While waiting for the train on the way home, my friend and I started talking about how seeing a young Jewish person on stage felt so comforting.
The undergraduate population at my school is six percent Jewish, and like all minority religious groups on campus, we face conflicts. It felt so good to escape for one night and see a Jewish person on stage, embracing Jewish culture and not hiding it, and also not facing any discrimination.
Being in the audience at Ben Platt’s concert felt akin to watching an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Broad City. I saw my culture represented, and it made everything more enjoyable. I felt seen, heard, and appreciated.
It’s a scary time to be a young Jew in America. There have been two deadly synagogue shootings in the U.S. in the past year, not to mention countless incidents of anti-Semitism. These days it’s hard not to feel anxious all the time, scared to be who I am.
Ben Platt’s concert made me feel safe and comfortable. If he can nearly sell out a 3,500-seat theater, then maybe there is hope.
Seeing a proud Jewish singer dancing around a stage like a dork was a medicine that no doctor could prescribe, but was somehow exactly what I needed.
Now, excuse me while I go listen to “Share Your Address” on repeat for the 1000th time.