Following more than a year of positive buzz and a sold-out run in the spring at Second Stage Theatre, the new musical Dear Evan Hansen lives up to expectations. Now at the Music Box Theatre, Dear Evan Hansen is proving itself to be the best Broadway has to offer.
The show is directed by Michael Greif, director of the original 1996 production of Rent and the critically-acclaimed Next to Normal, with a book written by Obie Award-winner Steven Levenson and a score by Tony Award-nominated Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It deals with themes of anxiety, loneliness and depression, intertwined with a sense of hopefulness and messages of the value of family, friendship and finding your place in the world.
High school student Evan Hansen is played by Ben Platt, who may be best known for his screen role as a “certified illusionist” in Pitch Perfect. Evan is embarking on his senior year and hoping to overcome his awkwardness and make a connection with someone. In a Shakespearean turn of events, a misunderstanding turns into a lie, which snowballs into a complicated mess for everyone involved.
Platt displays a deep understanding of Evan. Audiences root for Evan, who is making some poor choices, because they relate to his motives and sympathize with his predicament. In addition, Platt has immaculate control over his incredible voice, even at the most emotional moments, which will bring audiences to tears while his character tries to find the right words to say.
Dear Evan Hansen also stars Rachel Bay Jones as Evan’s mother, Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Jennifer Laura Thompson and Michael Park as members of the Murphy family, and Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd as classmates. While every cast member shines in their role, Faist’s portrayal of the troubled Connor secures his place as a rising star on Broadway.
Long Island’s own Will Roland makes his Broadway debut as Jared Kleinman, Evan’s “family friend” and a major highlight of the hilarious number in the first act “Sincerely, Me.”
What sets Dear Evan Hansen apart from other contemporary shows is its embrace of digital means of communication. Videos are integrated into the narrative. Clever lighting creates a representation of texting. In one scene, the stage transforms, placing the characters in the Internet. The visual depiction of something so intangible yet inextricable from daily life delivers a powerful effect.
Full of catchy tunes and soaring anthems, Dear Evan Hansen manages to give us songs that drive the story while also standing strong on their own. “Waving Through A Window” is a standout and available for download. The much-anticipated soundtrack is due out in February.
Don’t let the heavy subject matter fool you. Dear Evan Hansen is also full of insightful wit and laugh-out-loud humor. The highs complement the lows to create a deeply personal and emotional show that resonates with everyone in some way. If you don’t leave the theater singing “all I see is sky for forever,” chances are, the person next to you is.
The Music Box Theatre is located at 239 W 45th St., New York. For tickets to Dear Evan Hansen, visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200. For the complete performance schedule, visit www.dearevanhansen.com.