‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: Ben Platt. Photo: Matthew Murphy

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: Ben Platt. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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DEAR EVAN HANSEN
Book by Steven Levenson
Music & lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Directed by Michael Greif
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th Street
(212-239-6200), www.dearevanhansen.com

 

By David NouNou

Dear Evan Hansen is an original musical that is epic in its universality and its theme is timeless. It is a phenomenon for every parent that has a troubled child, who may be misunderstood, lonely, despondent, troubled, bullied, or even suicidal; it is a musical of our time and for generations to come.

The story centers on an anxiety-ridden teenager, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) who has to write himself letters of affirmation to build up his confidence and be able to socialize better with fellow students. On the first day of school, his letter is confiscated and read by the bullish outsider, Connor Murphy (Mike Faist). In the letter, Evan expresses his feelings about Zoe Murphy (Laura Dreyfuss) who happens to be Connor’s sister. At the end of the letter, he signs it “me.” Three days pass, and it is revealed that Connor committed suicide and the only thing on him was the letter he confiscated from Evan. Connor’s parents, Larry and Cynthia Murphy (Michael Park and Jennifer Laura Thompson), think it is a letter to a friend and they get in touch with Evan.

At first, Evan is at a total loss of what to say and do because there was never a friendship between him and Connor; but he sees how desperate the parents are and how much they want to know things about their son. With the aid of his cousin, Jared (Will Roland), Evan and Jared start fabricating backdated emails to give the parents some closure. Thus begins the tangled web that Evan has created for himself. At first he enjoys the fact that he is being noticed, that Larry and Cynthia become almost like surrogate parents, and Zoe starts to fall for him. In comes Alana Beck (Kristolyn Lloyd,) who was in a couple of classes with Connor, but never knew him, gets caught up in the hoopla, and wants to preserve Connor’s memory by starting the Connor Project and a website. Evan has to give a speech in school, and also does an online post about Connor. Naturally it becomes a media sensation and goes viral.

Meanwhile Evan’s mother, Heidi Hansen (Rachel Bay Jones), has no clue as what is going on and what her son is doing. Her husband left her and Evan 10 years earlier and she had to raise him alone. She is a nurse by day and taking paralegal courses at night, leaving her little time for Evan. She does her best to help but knows little what is happening with Evan, until she is invited to the Connors for dinner and then finds out through the Internet about The Connor Project and how Evan is co-president.

The web is so tangled and troubling to Evan that he is suffocating and losing himself in his predicament. He has to find his way out. I normally don’t like to give so much of the story, but must in order for the reader to understand the complexity of this piece. I also don’t want the reader to think that the piece is a depressing downer, morose or maudlin; on the contrary, it has a message of hope.

Michael Greif has taken this complicated tale and directed it with the lightest of touches. He knows it’s a heady topic and he treats all the action and movements with the utmost respect. The book by Steven Levenson is brilliant; he combines teenage angst and pains with today’s social media and all its trappings. The score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is a marvel. They did an incredible whimsical score for the Christmas classic A Christmas Story but here the score reaches exultant heights that are haunting and riveting.

The entire cast is outstanding but the star of the show, Ben Platt, is a revelation. He has the acting chops, the singing voice, the looks, the charm, and the personality to make the star of tomorrow. His Evan Hansen is a performance for the ages.

Guess what, folks? Get your tickets while you still can, because come Tony time I see at least six major awards going to this masterpiece.

 


Edited by Scott Harrah

Published December 9, 2016
Reviewed at press performance on December 8, 2016

 

Dear Evan Hansen

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: Mike Faist & Ben Platt. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: Ben Platt & Rachel Bay Jones. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: Ben Platt & Laura Dreyfuss. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: Ben Platt, Jennifer Laura Thompson & Michael Park. Photo: Matthew Murphy

dearevanhansen-cast

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: The cast. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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