Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review - Dear Evan Hansen

When my friends' show Dear Evan Hansen played its Off-Broadway run at Second Stage, I saw it during previews - you can see my thoughts on the show HERE.  When it was announced that the musical would move to Broadway, I was over the moon. I found so much to love in that Off-Broadway production that I was thrilled to know I could see it again.  Thanks to some discount ticket magic (I bought this ticket months ago, I'm not sure if discounts exist anymore after the rapturous reviews), I saw Dear Evan Hansen again last night, now at its new home, the lovely Music Box Theatre.  As usual, since I love the creators, I guess you can take what I say with a grain of salt.

I re-read my thoughts on the Off-Broadway production and they're not bad, you should read them for more context.  The show itself hasn't changed all that much in its move; I just checked the Playbill from Second Stage and all of the songs remain in the show. What changed, at least for me, was my response to the show.  Of course I was moved, and sobbed, the last time it played, but all of those emotions were heightened and intensified last night.  I was practically heaving with sobs by the end of the show and my tears/emotion started much earlier in the evening.  Whether that's because I knew the show and knew where it was going already, or whether its because the show worked even better for me last night, I don't know.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
All of the reviews have already pointed out that Ben Platt is giving an extraordinary, star-making performance as Evan Hansen.  I can only agree utterly and completely.  I saw the show from the first row at Second Stage and, though I enjoyed being up close, I missed some nuances there.  Sitting in the mezzanine last night helped me to see the big picture, along with all the details.  And Platt is filling in so many details, it's astounding.  His singing is first-rate, of course, but his complete immersion into this awkward, idiosyncratic kid is totally complete.  And his character arc is also astounding.  His first solo, "Waving Through a Window" (which you can stream on the Dear Evan Hansen website, so I suggest you listen asap), is just teeming with absolute need.  His entire body, through his body language and his singing, is practically vibrating with need.  With want.  The combination of song and performer is simply spectacular.  There's a whole world in that song, and that world made me burst into tears for the first time.

photo caption: Sara Krulwich
It certainly wasn't the last.  Benj and Justin have written a score that's so rich, so detailed in plot and characterization, that all of the songs made me feel so much, and so many different things.  In my previous review, I mentioned the song "So Big/So Small," still one of the most moving songs I've ever heard.  But, this time, I was also quite taken with "Words Fail" and ""Sincerely, Me," a charming funny song also tinged with sadness.  But, really, the entire score is fantastic and I can't wait until I can get the cast album in February.

Platt is not the only actor making a splash in Dear Evan Hansen.  The entire cast is incredibly wonderful.  Rachel Bay Jones was just heartbreaking as Evan's mom, especially in the scene leading up to "So Big/So Small."  But Jennifer Laura Thompson was also wonderful as the other mom in the show; I've been a big fan of hers since Urinetown.  The teens were also terrific, especially Laura Dreyfuss as Zoe.  She had a knowing ingenuousness, if that makes sense, and was totally natural and a quiet compelling center in her scenework.  

I love these sweet, wonderful, talented boys
Watching from the mezzanine also allowed me to see the terrific direction by Michael Greif - the stage pictures he makes are wonderful. The set and lighting design were terrific and I'm glad to have been able to see them this time.  Steven Levenson's libretto is also quirky and original and true.  Obviously, I highly HIGHLY recommend you see Dear Evan Hansen. It made me think about so many things, alongside having the enjoyment of seeing a terrific piece of theater.  I'm so proud of my friends and hope they're enjoying their success as much as the audience seemed to be enjoying the show last night (except for my seat neighbor, who was a lady of a certain age whose assisted listening device wasn't working, so she kept 'harumphing' at my heaving sobs, but I'll forgive her if she couldn't hear what was making me cry).  I will definitely be entering some lotteries to try to see this show again, I would love to be able to get even more details and more of the richness of the score from additional viewings.  But if you haven't seen the show at all yet, please go.  You won't be sorry.

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