“Dear Evan Hansen” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – December 2, 2018


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a bold show that goes places musicals haven’t previously explored.  It examines two young men who struggle as life opens to them with the myriad of choices and challenges we all face.  Through the various characters, the show stresses each person’s uniqueness and how this makes a diverse world.

The two main characters – Evan Hansen and Connor Murphy – face life’s questions and issues in diverse ways resulting in different solutions.  Spoiling this insightful show with additional plot details will ruin it for future audiences.

Phoenix theatergoers are lucky to see this impressive show early in its tour but it was only scheduled for one week and it immediately sold out when the few remaining tickets left after subscribers took most seats quickly disappeared.  The show could have played here a month or more and local audiences can hope it will soon return for a longer engagement.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a superbly conceived musical by Steven Levenson with impressive Benj Pasek and Justin Paul songs that thoughtfully comment on the complex characters and the situations they tackle.

It explores two diverse ways to handle growing up and fitting into life.  The characters are multi-dimensional and are like people everyone knows.  These people are not typical musical comedy characters who sing and dance through life because they confront challenging issues and find resolutions to avoid worse situations.

The impressive touring production duplicates the Broadway original with richly detailed characterizations performed by singing actors who explore gritty roles but still entertain with impressive musical theater skills grounded in the characters they portray.

Ben Levi Ross’ brilliant and telling perspective on the title character is impressive.  The young performer reveals slowly and with passionate realism the emotional challenges Evan faces.  Marrick Smith plays Connor, Evan’s friend, who tackles this unique relationship but solves his issues sadly.  Also extraordinary are the individuals who play these boys challenged parents and siblings who face the same perplexing dynamic of the lead youths but with different issues.  Be assured that there is not a weak link in any performance while Michael Greif’s staging and Danny Medford’s unobtrusive but clever choreography is direct but emotionally telling.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is not a splashy musical with elaborate sets and costumes but it pictures real life.  This remarkable show brings complex situations to a contemporary musical with impeccable style.  “Dear Evan Hansen” closes Sunday, December 2 but since it is sold out, it must return soon for a longer local engagement.

Grade: A