Dear Evan Hansen,” like most Broadway musicals, has a stellar cast of performers bringing beautiful dialogue and signature songs to audiences every night. Like other theater lovers, fans line up to see this favorite again and again. What is so different about “Dear Evan Hansen,” is that its theme does not center on a sweeping romance or reconceived fairytale. Within the first minutes of the six Tony award-winning musical, a classmate of the title character, Connor Murphy, takes his life by suicide. This subsequent, deeply powerful story unfolds as his family and a classmate struggling to cope with depression and come to grips with how to still embrace life while managing despair.

Far from being typical American musical theatre fare, “Dear Evan Hansen” didn't seem to have anything “commercially viable” to playwright Steven Levenson, but early audiences had an instant connection to the story, the songs, the actors, and most of all, the themes of this production that speak louder than any PSA ad campaign. It is the message of help and hope, of this musical, that resonates authenticity and so continues to reach audiences of every age, on many levels.

A raw connection from the first audiences

Fans were saddened, some days ago, by the news that Rachel Bay Jones, who portrays Evan’s mother, Heidi, will be exiting the production after her last performance next month on August 5, per Variety.

The actress will appear in a new CBS sitcom, “God Friended Me,” as well as upcoming film projects. She keeps “Dear Evan Hansen” very close to her heart, not only for its significance in her own life but for the difference she observed in the very first audiences.

Even in pre-production, through readings and workshops, “people responded in such an emotionally visceral way,” like nothing Jones had ever observed before.

She knew it would make an impact, as she and castmates described on July 7’s “CBS This Morning,” that the impact continues to change lives, as the musical thrives as a vessel of hope.

Taylor Trensch now portrays the title character and is still taken aback by the mountains of mail, directly delivered notes, and personal words of gratitude that he receives every week.

“Dear Evan Hansen” doesn't ever play their subject matter as a dramatic thrill or hype. From the stage, the message is brutally honest. Alex Boniello, who plays Murphy, offers one of the most meaningful lines of the musical through the song lyric, “If you never get around to doing some remarkable thing, that doesn't mean you're not worth remembering.”

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul could never have imagined how deeply their words and music would become entrenched into souls. That kind of affirmation of every human life has allowed this musical to become a vehicle for mental health discussion nationwide, and a safety net for anyone who feels “on the outside.” Simply writing, speaking, and allowing oneself to truly feel what may have never been spoken, and know that there are those who can listen and help, begins a transforming process.

“You don't have to be extraordinary to be lovable,” Trensch summarizes the theme.

Stretching from the stage to the professionals

Steven Levenson understands the responsibility that comes from tackling the huge, but often unspoken, subjects of suicide, depression, and mental health. Before the recent deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, deaths by suicide were already the second leading cause of death for ages 18-24, and the fourth leading cause for ages 35-54. The statistics are hardly hidden, and the “Dear Evan Hansen” production first sought out partnerships with several mental health agencies, such as the Child Mind Institute and the JED Foundation, to make sure that every person who was part of the effort knew the right information and references for responding to someone in need.

The collaborations have become invaluable. Levenson explains that the experts in the field “keep us honest,” and Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer of the JED Foundation, saw immediately that “Dear Evan Hansen” was reaching audiences on a very deep level. His foundation has done several interventions in conjunction with the musical, and he feels that it is no understatement to say that the musical has saved lives.

Rachel Bay Jones takes a tremendous sense of “heart and hope” from the thousands of letters that the combined cast receives, and they attest to the interconnectedness of humanity and the personal significance of every message. Correspondent Anthony Mason has taken each of his children, separately, to the musical, insisting that whatever someone has to do to get a ticket, the experience is worth the cost.

He also notes that the audiences cover the age spectrum, moved by the message. The anthem of “Dear Evan Hansen” is “You Will Be Found,” and as this musical embarks on its national tour in September, so many more sitting in audiences will find themselves in this story, and feel found and noticed, no longer on the outside.