REVIEW: DEAR EVAN HANSEN
at The Denver Center
by Edwin Lobach
Go. Just go. Even sitting up in the balcony section of the Buell Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Center, I would see it again tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. If you’re a fan of the Original Broadway Cast, then fret not: Ben Levi Ross is rather better casted for Evan than Ben Platt (whom I love) and Maggie McKenna and Jessica Phillips (Zoe & Heidi) have very similar timbres to Broadway’s Laura Dreyfuss and Rachel Bay Jones. Further, the national tour is directed by the original director Michael Greif, and orchestrating the music of writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is also the original music supervisor, Alex Lacamoire.
But firsts are firsts: The plot: High school senior Evan Hansen struggles with crippling anxiety disorder and lives with his single mother, Heidi; Hansen’s peer, Connor Murphy (Marrick Smith), takes his own life, and Hansen is roped into the Murphy’s grieving; Hansen’s chance to court his muse, Zoe Murphy, is realized all while Hansen anxiously fabricates his friendship with the late Connor; and unfold drama.
The set: minimal, but in a good way. David Korins and Peter Nigrini can be thanked for the scenic and projection designs. I can’t give too much away, but it’s very relevant, i.e. social media projecting onto sliding panels. The song Waving Through a Window—Tap, tap, tapping on the glass… I realized through the powerful set that it’s in reference to tapping on your smartphone. Other than the projections, the set consisted namely of two moving beds, a couch, a moving dinner table. Fairly minimal.
My favorite cast member was Jared Goldsmith as Jared. He just was Jared—that wisecrack high school boy. About every time he opened his mouth the audience was laughing. His delivery was perfect for his lines and character. And I guess while I’m on Jared, I should say that he says f#*k a lot, and he wasn’t the only one. I saw a lot of children at the show, so know this: PG-13 for Christians.
The awkward: OK, so at one point there was a woopsies—a mic went silent for a couple seconds during dialogue. Happens. We missed almost nothing and nobody seemed to care. Next, Alana (Phoebe Koyabe) was louder here and there when singing. Just touched the ears a bit much. Contrarily, during my favorite song Requiem, Larry and Cynthia Murphy (Aaron Lazar and Christiane Noll) were a touch too quiet during the chorus. But what was most uncomfortable, during a critical moment (the speech) Evan “froze up” on the stage for seconds too long—artistically, I think. The moment cozied up to the fourth wall and let the entire Buell Theatre feel awkward with Evan. Eventually he got the “courage” and began the closing song of the first act, #YouWillBeFound.
And the lights came on and here I was wiping again the tears away with a big dumb smile on my face.
Dear Evan Hansen is a musical deserving all its accolades. If you’re planning on seeing it, do. As said: Go. Just go. The show is running until October 13 and you can buy tickets at denvercenter.org. After Denver they are hitting fifty more cities nationally, so if you find this review from another state, find out when they are coming to you and start saving up. Bring your grandma. Bring your dad. It really speaks to families. You’re not going to want to miss this.