When it rains, it absolutely pours in New York. But that didn’t stop me being stoked to see the award winning Dear Evan Hansen. The show is about a 17 year old called Evan Hansen who suffers with social anxiety. After the suicide of Connor, a fellow student at his school, Evan finds himself tangled up in Connor’s family based on a lie. With a Tony award winning score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dogfight, A Christmas Carol, La La Land) and direction by Michael Greif, I knew I was in for a treat. I booked a ticket for this show back in January, really not knowing much about the show at all. The show had developed a lot of buzz from its out of town tryout in Chicago to its Off Broadway run to its Broadway opening in December last year. To tell you the truth, the hype made me buy a ticket on impulse and I’m so glad I did. Dear Evan Hansen warmed my heart and made me feel so emotional in a way no other show has done before. I cried three times. That’s three times more than I’ve ever done at shows like Les Miserables, Rent and Once. I’ve welled up but I’ve never had tears dripping down my face halfway through an act. And it wasn’t even a sad show, it really hit me hard because it was just so relatable.
There was quite a bit of debate in the theatre community that other shows in the category should’ve won over Dear Evan Hansen. I loved Great Comet as well and I think that show should’ve got more than two wins (they definitely should’ve won direction and choreography at least) but here are five reasons why I think DEH won best musical.
It’s incredibly present.
Honestly this show could’ve been written yesterday. The overall message of the show is what it’s like to be a teenager in a world obsessed with social media. I imagine the show has been updated as the creation process progressed due to the rise of apps like Snapchat and popularity of hobbies like vlogging – both of which are I cooperated into the story in small chunks. As you enter the auditorium of the Music Box Theatre there are text tones that go off every couple of seconds before the curtain rises to enhance the kind of world we and the characters are living in. Funnily enough, the performance I attended had a technical difficulty about 20 minutes into the show and what was the first thing I did? I tweeted about it.
The characters are so relevant as well. There’s hundreds of people out there like Evan and Connor who feel so alone and while some pull through, others don’t. And I think that is what got me during You Will Be Found when we see Connor’s family finally start to grieve.
Pasek and Paul’s score matched with Alex Lacamoire orchestrations create a wonderful crossover with musical theatre and pop/chart music. The lyrics are beautifully written as well, Pasek & Paul really know how to pack a punch. Its great that musicals like this are becoming mainstream and can be played on the radio and gets people interested in musical theatre. Because of that, it increased Dear Evan Hansen’s chance at being handed the big award. In my opinion, however, as much as I love the music, I think the Tony Awards for Best Score & Orchestrations should’ve gone to Great Comet. The music in DEH is amazing but Great Comet has such an eclectic mix of music genres in one sung through show single handedly created by Dave Malloy.
It’s actually pretty funny too.
No, really. The show does have some really lighthearted moments, particularly from Will Roland’s character Jared. Steven Levenson’s book balances out making the audience laugh as well as punching us in the gut, which works really well as this grounded the humanity in the characters.
The absolutely outstanding performances.
We all knew Ben Platt was going to get the Leading Actor in a Musical Tony. It was a given. His performance is a thing of wonder. Not only is he a fantastic vocalist and a fantastic actor but his stage presence is incredible. He inhabits the character of Evan so damn well in his impressive physicality. He spends so much of his time on stage hunched over that I noticed whenever he belted, he stretched some of his muscles in his legs or his arms as a way to reach them? I’m unclear of the whole physical therapy an actor must do to maintain stamina (especially in a show like this) but it fascinated me so much how dedicated he is to this character and this show.
Ben is supported with an incredible company of 7 other fantastic actors. Rachel Bay Jones’ heartbreaking and raw portrayal of Evan’s mum Heidi with her roaring vocals, she definitely deserved her Tony award. Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd brighten up the stage when they are on as Jared and Alana respectively. Laura Dreyfuss who plays Zoe has such a beautiful voice and creates a beautiful character in Zoe, straying away from a typical angry teen. Mike Faist as Connor’s presence is haunting, particularly through act 2. And The Murphy’s are played beautifully by Michael Park & Jennifer Laura Thompson who have fantastic chemistry together.
Dear Evan Hansen is a truly remarkable show. I adored every second I got to spend in the Music Box Theatre on a rainy afternoon. If you can see the show in New York, run don’t walk. And I will spend the rest of my time keeping my fingers crossed for a transfer to London.
Until next time,