Ben Platt is no stranger to giving a good performance. After accumulating attention in fan favorite films such as “Pitch Perfect” and Broadway musicals such as “The Book of Mormon” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” the 26-year-old performer has since moved on to creating his debut studio album — Sing to Me Instead.
Platt’s recent Netflix special, “Ben Platt Live from Radio City Music Hall,” documents Platt’s performance from the last show of the album’s tour. While Platt is commonly associated with the theatrics that come with being a Broadway performer, this final recorded concert highlights his individuality away from the grandeur of a Broadway stage, showing off his diversity as an artist.
Starting off with the first track on the album, “Bad Habit,” Platt sets the intimate tone of the event, captivating audiences with his incredible vocal range and stunning high-waisted blue trousers. This personable nature is accelerated by the items surrounding the young artist: a chest of records, an earth-toned carpet and a couple of wooden chairs. Everything is simple, something we might find in our own living rooms. Platt stops to note, “I really wanted this to feel as warm and welcoming as possible,” something he achieves seamlessly throughout the show.
Standing on the same stage where he won the Tony Award for “Dear Evan Hansen” in 2017, Platt brings the weight of his own narrative to his performance. Paralleling the homeliness of his surroundings, the Netflix special shows off a variety of Platt’s friends and family in the audience, reflecting the importance of those who have supported him on both his personal and artistic journey.
Against the warm yellow lights that backdrop the young artist, Platt smoothly fills the large volume of Radio City Music Hall with his strong voice. Songs like “Hurt Me Once” quiet an audience of thousands, leaving room for Platt to explore his personal emotions while simultaneously connecting to his audience through themes of love and heartbreak.
Though the majority of Platt’s set consists of emotional ballads dedicated to lost love and youth, there are many moments where Platt exuberantly shines. Specifically, songs like “New” and “Rain” display Platt’s energetic side, showing off goofy dance moves that one would typically reserve for the privacy of their bedroom. These songs from Sing to Me Instead, along with an iconic cover of Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot,” truly show off Platt’s vibrant nature and love of performing. In these moments, Platt is undoubtedly in his element, inviting his audience to share in his enthusiasm for celebrating art.
Apart from the natural vocal talent that Platt possesses, perhaps the most enlightening part of his performance are the anecdotes he embeds within his emotionally striking set. As an actor and former Broadway star, the media has praised his ability to transform into emotionally demanding characters. However, Platt’s Netflix concert allows for him to share pieces of himself to larger audiences in ways he hasn’t been able to before. Accompanied by his emotional vocals, Platt’s anecdotes surrounding his sexuality, Judaism and his anxiety feel authentic and personal.
Though recorded concerts on Netflix undeniably disconnect audiences from the raw experience of seeing an artist in person, Platt’s sensitivity breaks through the barrier of a screen. This concert shows Platt at his most vulnerable, emphasizing his duality as both an artist and a person aiming to grow and connect with others. There is nothing disingenuous about the way he presents himself or his art.
Platt dedicates the final song of the show, “Run Away,” to his family members, sharing that they have taught him that music “can help you see someone in a way you don’t expect to.” As the hopeful lyrics of the song play out, the film cuts to clips of Platt embracing his family after the show, giving viewers a small, uplifting peek at Platt’s personal life..
With its simplicity and intimate nature, “Ben Platt Live from Radio City Music Hall” showcases Platt both as a vocal powerhouse and a sincerely passionate artist, allowing his audience to see him in a way it might not expect.