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The creators of hit musical (and now a book) ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ come to Petaluma Oct. 15

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PLANNING TO GO?

What: “Dear Evan Hansen,” the book, read by author Val Emmich, with songs from the musical performed by lyricists Benj Pasik and Justin Paul.

When: Monday, October 15, 7 p.m.

Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.

Admission: $27, includes copy of the book

Information: Copperfieldsbooks.com

How do you take a Tony-winning, mega-hot Broadway musical — with all of the large orchestra, flashy special effects, and splashy production values that a big budget New York production is capable of — and transform that experience into a 368 page book?

For Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson — the mega-talented threesome who created the 2016 Broadway sensation “Dear Evan Hansen” — the first thing you do is find a novelist who doesn’t frighten easily.

“We were so fortunate to get to work with the wonderful Val Emmich,” says Justin Paul, who wrote the show’s lyrics with Pasek, the “book” of the musical (theater-speak for the spoken words in a musical’s script) was contributed by Levenson. “Val is a beautiful writer, whose writing is itself very emotional, and even has a musical lilt to its aesthetic. But when we first started meeting with him and talking about what the book would become, and how to tell the story in a new format, he was a little nervous about it. Maybe a lot nervous. Honestly, we all were.”

One of the chief concerns, Paul allows, was finding a way to translate the uniquely multisensory spirit of a Broadway show — one with songs that have become beloved to millions of people — into the far more cerebral, calm and reflective mechanics of a printed book.

And what do you do with those songs?

“There are these big tent-pole moments in the show, and they are all songs,” points out Paul, who is calling in from New York, with Pasek and Levenson on the line. “So our question was, how do we turn those songs into something that provides a similar experience, for the reader, to what people have been having when they come see the show on Broadway?”

However it was that Emmich (“The Reminders”) accomplished that challenge, the end results have thrilled critics, who’ve praised the book (released earlier this week) for its uncanny faithfulness to the play it is based on. “Even in book form,” wrote author Becky Albertalli (“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”), Evan Hansen’s story sings.” Jodi Picoult, author of “My Sister’s Keeper” and “A Spark of Light,” wrote “‘Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel’ is a terrific reinvention of an already brilliant piece of art. And Entertainment Weekly’s David Canfield said, “Yep, the hit musical will make you cry just as much in book form.”

On Monday, Oct. 15, author Emmich — along with lyricists Pasek and Paul — will appear in Petaluma at the Mystic Theatre. In an event sponsored by Copperfield’s Books, Emmich will read from the novel, and Pasek and Paul — who also wrote the songs for the movies “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” — will perform tunes from the musical.

“Dear Evan Hansen,” the book and the musical, tell the story of Evan, a high-schooler with crippling social anxiety, who ends up sparking a social media frenzy when he is accidentally identified as the secret best friend of a troubled kid from the same school, who has recently died by suicide. Unsure how to break the news that the letter found in the dead boy’s pocket — addressed to “Evan Hansen” — was actually a letter he wrote to himself as part of his own therapy homework (how it got in the other kids’ pocket is a long story), Evan is forced to fabricate more letters, establishing a chain of correspondence that initially brings comfort to the boy’s grieving family, then spins out of control as Evan becomes the accidental leader of a Facebook movement to let depressed and struggling people everywhere know they are not alone in their sadness and pain.

PLANNING TO GO?

What: “Dear Evan Hansen,” the book, read by author Val Emmich, with songs from the musical performed by lyricists Benj Pasik and Justin Paul.

When: Monday, October 15, 7 p.m.

Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.

Admission: $27, includes copy of the book

Information: Copperfieldsbooks.com

Carried by the bestselling original cast recording, the musical’s aching song “Waving Through a Window” and the soaring “You Will Be Found” have since become go-to anthems of resilience and compassion for millions of high schoolers. That was a big part of the trick in turning the show and its turns into printed YA novel.

Says Paul, “Val has said that when he’d sit down to write those moments, those scenes from the show where a big song was taking place, that he’d always have the original cast recording playing, with his earbuds in or whatever. So he’d have that music in his ears, and he would try to match the energy and emotion and pacing of the song in his prose. But at the same time, none of us wanted the book to be a carbon copy of the show, so we pushed the envelope a little, and let Val explore some new territory that stays consistent with the show, but is very much its own thing.”

“I think people are pretty excited about it,” says Pasek, allowing that (at interview time) the book had yet to hit bookstores. “But the folks we’ve sent it to, all the people who could be the barometers for us of whether or not the book effectively translated our story, they’ve all been pretty positive.”

“When the show first opened on Broadway, almost two years ago, we were really shocked and overwhelmed by the response we felt from the people who’d seen the show,” says Levenson. “People connected with it personally in a way we’d never really imagined would happen. And what really surprised us was the response from people who hadn’t even seen the show, particularly young people who had listened to the album and/or read about it on line, or seen clips of the show on YouTube. People seemed to find something of themselves in this show, and in this story.”

The idea for the book came from the realization that only so many people would be able to see the show on Broadway, or even a touring production, such as the one that’s bringing the musical to the Curran Theater in San Francisco this December.

“So we thought, it would be great to get this story out to even more people, and to reach the ones who can’t get to a theater, but who might find the story really important,” says Levenson. “A book is a great way to get the story into the hands of just about everyone who wants to experience this story, and maybe needs to.”