Review: Dear Evan Hansen – More Than A Musical

Dear Evan Hansen - Seattle

Dear Evan Hansen is the hit musical that is on the modern edge of society, delivering an important message as well as complete entertainment. It is a show that everyone should see, especially teenagers of today’s times. It is a show not to be missed and is currently playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre through February 2nd. Get tickets and more information here.

The storyline is relevant to what is happening today. It revolves around Evan Hansen, an overly anxious high school student living with his divorced mother. His father left years ago and has not been in the picture. Evan feels like an outcast; he’s a loner, gets no notice from his classmates, and his only ‘friend’ is an acquaintance arranged by his mother, and an outcast girl he barely knows. To overcome his insecurity and anxiety, Evan writes himself a letter every day to try and boost his self-confidence dutifully signing each one, “Sincerely, Me”. The letter is an assignment from his doctor and is not meant for anyone else to see. When Connor Murphy, another outcast and troubled boy finds Evan’s letter, he mistakenly thinks it’s an insult to him. Connor goes home and commits suicide with Evan’s letter in his pocket. When Connor’s parents find the letter, they mistakenly think Evan is their estranged son’s best friend. Through social media, the secret of their ‘friendship’ spreads throughout the school, and Evan is suddenly thrust into the spotlight – a place he never thought he’d achieve. People who barely knew Connor are all trying to somehow attach themselves to his name by placing themselves into the narrative of his life. What starts out as a simple lie to offer comfort to Connor’s parents, soon becomes a monumental project showing how social media can both help promote the noblest of causes, and destroy lives an instant.  e

The cast is relatively small considering the powerful performances they give. All voices are good and each one shows an individuality that the audience can identify with at one point or another. Evan’s two sidekicks are his friend Jared (played by Jared Goldsmith) and Alana (played by Phoebe Koyabe). These two actors do good jobs of showing the way different people feel like outcasts, nerds or geeks. They are the epitome of someone everyone in the audience knew in high school, and we all can identify with them in some way or another.

Ben Levi Ross as 'Evan Hansen' and the Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen.  (Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018)
Ben Levi Ross as ‘Evan Hansen’ and the Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. (Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018)

The Murphy family consists of father Larry (Aaron Lazar), mother Cynthia (Christiane Noll), son Connor (Marrick Smith) and daughter Zoe (Maggie McKenna). Both parents show the pains of the grieving parents. They look at Evan as being a pseudo-substitute for their own son. Mr. Lazar’s voice is strong yet embraces a certain tenderness when singing the affectionate duet with Evan, “To Break in a Glove”. Ms. Noll’s voice is strong and she easily conveys the desperation to have her son back, and the transference of her love to Evan. Ms. McKenna combines the right amount of sullenness for Connor’s younger sister. She is the interest of Evan, and soon appreciates the kindness he has shown her. When the three of them combine to sing “Requiem”, it is a bitter moment of loss and regret about not knowing how to love those closest to you. Mr. Smith plays Connor very well as a withdrawn high school student. After the character’s suicide, Connor appears as Evan’s guide, confident and spiritual advisor. He adds the correct chemistry of having an attitude with an endearing charm so as not to alienate the audience as much as to show them the different sides of his ‘alleged’ personality.

Jessica Phillips is Evan’s mother, Heidi Hansen. The audience immediately responds to her efforts in trying to understand what her son is going through, all the while balancing a divorced life, a job, night school, and the missed opportunities of a quickly growing boy. Her voice is strong, reminiscent of Sarah Jessica Parker’s, and we feel her frustrations of raising a son when (both mothers) sing the duet, “Anybody Have a Map?”

Stephen Christopher Anthony (normally the alternate) performed on Opening Night in the title role, Evan Hansen. Mr. Anthony completely captured the audience with his character’s social awkwardness and overly anxious behaviors. It is a powerful moment when this neurotic caterpillar transforms, before the audience’s eyes, into a full-fledged moth that ultimately flies too close to the flame. His voice is strong and the audience immediately takes him to heart with his first solo, “Waving Through a Window” – a song that expresses what it is like being on the outside looking in, and the yearnings to be a part of it all without possessing the skills to do it.

Dear Evan Hansen is more than a hit musical. The story is one of importance, relevance and on the edge of modern times. It deals with high school students that feel alone, undeserving, invisible and detached from their family, friends and their lives. It is a social commentary. It is a message desperately needing to be heard; No one is invisible. “You will be found”*.

Dear Broadway Writers,           
It’ll be an amazing season when you STOP putting recycled movies on the stage and calling them musicals! Dear Evan Hansen is what theatre is supposed to be – original, entertaining, provocative, and well done.
Sincerely,
ME

Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway November 14, 2016 and it is still running today. The book is by Steven Levenson with Lyrics*/music by Justin Paul & Benj Pasek. Originally starring Ben Platt in the title role, the musical would go on to be nominated for eight Tony Awards (during the 2017 season), winning five including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Dear Evan Hansen is playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre through February 2nd. Get tickets and more information here.

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

1 Reply to “Review: Dear Evan Hansen – More Than A Musical”

  1. babs says:

    Really interesting review. Hadn’t heard of this play – but will look forward to seeing it soon.

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