The show begins with beautiful shots of pre-concert buzz. The venue’s marquee flashes brightly, a moving crew carefully places the instruments and decorations on the stage, and, down in the basement hall lined with dressing rooms, Ben Platt nervously works through his routine vocal warmups.
“Ben Platt Live from Radio City Music Hall,” a live concert filmed by Netflix on Sept. 29 and released May 20, gives a glimpse into Platt’s inner life and love for music while showcasing the gorgeous scenery of the world-famous Radio City Music Hall. This was the last stop on Platt’s tour of his debut studio album, “Sing to Me Instead.”
The new Netflix special gives the audience a behind-the-scenes peek into the preparations for the concert as Platt’s iconic “Bad Habit” begins to play in the background. These scenes are filmed like a home movie — a little bit shaky but filled with love — and edited to look older and worn, making the audience feel at home.
The music smoothly glides into “Temporary Love.” Platt then welcomes the audience enthusiastically. He dances around the stage throughout the entire concert, and it’s evident that this is a huge moment for him. As a prominent Broadway actor and the star of Ryan Murphy’s "The Politician," Platt said this tour was the first chance he’s had to be himself on stage.
The show continues with “Honest Man” and “Hurt Me Once,” which Platt wrote about past relationships. Throughout the performance, he opens up about his childhood, past and sexuality. He said multiple songs on the album stemmed from failed relationships and what he wishes he’d done in those situations.
“I really love to be in my feelings, as it were, use the music to process those sad things,” Platt said during the concert. “But, I also think music is meant to help us feel ourselves.”
That’s exactly what “New” does. As the first upbeat, positive song of the night, “New” gets everyone in the audience out of their seats and dancing. Platt also displays his dance moves, which seem to be a huge hit with the audience. His dancing may be a bit crazy, but it brings the beautiful comfort of authenticity to the show and encourages the audience to relax and enjoy the night.
Platt spoke during an Instagram livestream on the day of the special’s release about the unbridled passion and vulnerability in his performance. He said he wanted the audience to gain something from the live concert that they couldn’t get from the album and felt it was important for people to know where the songs came from to connect with them.
“I figured, if I'm really gonna do this, I'm not gonna be able to hold anything back,” Platt said during the livestream. “There’s no reason to go in and edit my experience or my story, so, if I’m going to give, you know, myself, I’m going to give myself.”
In addition to many songs from his album, Platt covered two songs by some of his self-proclaimed heroes. His rendition of “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile had the audience weeping, while his groovy, gospel choir version of “Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John stood out as a show-stopping number with the audience dancing in the aisles.
Platt finishes out the show with more beloved songs off his album like “Share Your Address,” “Ease My Mind” and “Grow As We Go.” He became especially emotional at the end, singing “Older” as his finale.
“I was in a real rush to grow up … I wish I had taken a bit more time to be reckless and a little more youthful,” Platt said during the concert. “I looked at all the points in my life in which I was looking forward, looking backward, looking anywhere but where I was … I’m a very anxious person, so I live very much in my head, and I have a really hard time being present where I am.”
Platt attributed his encore, “Run Away,” to his parents, as the song tells the story of a family who’s always there for each other. He then expressed how much he’d been looking forward to the concert and everything it meant to him in a heartfelt farewell to the audience.
“I look out at everybody and think about what’s happening right now,” Platt said during the finale. “I can’t believe it’s my life. Thank you so much for coming.”
Contact Charlotte Matherly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.