“Today is going to be a great day and here’s why.” This is one of the preliminary lines you’ll hear when watching the Broadway musical, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, and it rings true to any audience member lucky enough to watch this amazing and impactful show.
The show follows anxiety-ridden teenager, Evan Hansen, as he navigates through this huge lie that he and fellow classmate who recently committed suicide, Connor Murphy, were secretly best friends who wrote a multitude of letters to each other throughout their friendship. Evan finds a kind of solace in Connor’s seemingly picture perfect family when they take him under his wing as one of the only people who seemed to understand the complexities of Connor’s brain that no one else saw. However, his secret blows completely out of proportion as social media is used to spread and his friends and family get increasingly suspicious. While the plot in itself and how the characters relate to each other through great tragedy and lies is groundbreaking, there are other aspects of the show as well that make it such a unique experience.
The stage and background is an extremely important aspect of this show, more so than most Broadway performances. While the stage is always a prominent factor in setting up the mood of the show, for ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, it serves as an aide to tell the story as well. The background constantly is showing various aspects of social media, from Facebook profiles, Spotify playlists, and Twitter timelines. As the characters go through manic periods of scrolling through their social accounts, the background follows suit and shows ferocious scrolling as part of the backdrop.
The blue and white tints of light from the technological screen backgrounds stand out harshly against the otherwise black parts of the stage. Often in this show, the only true lights on the stage are shining directly onto the characters who are speaking. No other ambient light is used, showcasing the dark undertones in the story such as bullying, social anxiety, loneliness, depression, and suicide. In a very direct sense, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ truly shines a light on these issues that plague, not only the characters, but also everyone watching the show who has ever suffered from these intense problems.
Though this show deals with these dark themes, it still manages to be light-hearted throughout. While there are many somber moments, they are almost always followed by a joke or quick-witted statement by another character to break up the sadness. Most often, this character was Jared, Evan’s crude and sarcastic family friend who helps him carry out this huge lie that Evan and Connor Murphy were secretly best friends who wrote a multitude of letters to each other that no one knew about.
Though the original Broadway cast is hard to beat, the national tour cast has no problem matching up the the large footsteps that have been placed before them. Ben Levi Ross plays the lead role of Evan Hansen and completely flourishes. His small ticks in his body language as well as the nuances in his speaking voice that convey nerves are totally parallel to an awkward teenager suffering from an intense social anxiety disorder. Ross not only plays the role of Evan, but he lives and breathes it for those two and a half hours on stage.
Aside from Ross, the other characters fit into their parts with ease and grace as well. Every line and every word is so completely believable. It’s not as if you’re watching a show on a Broadway stage; it’s as if you’re watching these people’s lives unfold before your eyes. That’s when you know you’re watching something truly special.
Overall, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, despite its dark thematic undertones, was a joyful experience from beginning to end. From the dialogue, to the interactions between characters, to the enthusiastic yet emotional songs, this is not only an enjoyable show, but an important one. It highlights the themes of bullying, depression, anxiety, and suicide, which are topics that we all need to pay more attention to. If anyone has the opportunity to see this show, you will be doing yourself an immense favor. “So, thank you Evan Hansen, for doing what you’re doing.”