By COLLEEN GAPUZAN
Dear Evan Hansen, thank you for finding us. We’ve been waiting for a musical like you.
Broadway’s American musical cultural phenomenon is back and better than ever. The national tour for the award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen made its Los Angeles debut at the Ahmanson Theater on Oct. 17 through Nov. 25. After debuting on Broadway in 2016, Dear Evan Hansen was named as one of the most remarkable musicals in theatre history. With its 12 Tony nominees and six awards including Best Musical, the long-awaited return is finally here.
Dear Evan Hansen is a musical written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (best known for composing songs from the hit musical film La La Land) revolving around teenager Evan Hansen, who struggles with severe social anxiety. He is instructed by his therapist to write letters to himself to help him with his confidence and self-esteem. However, after one of his classmates commits suicide, he falls into a series of unforeseen events, in which he embarks on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.
In the national tour, the cast is lead by Ben Levi Ross who plays Evan Hansen, including Maggie McKenna as Zoe Murphy, Jessica Phillips as Heidi Hansen and much more. From the outstanding, moving acting to the incredible songs, the Dear Evan Hansen national tour was an unforgettable production.
Immediately at the beginning of Act One, large ceiling-length panels were decked out across the entire stage which was used to project background images vital to scenes. Some examples include text messages, social media screenshots and of course, emails. Unlike most musicals, this production brings a new, modern take on old-school musical theatre by incorporating advanced technicalities and staging.
Another contributing factor that hit home was the incredible cast. Since the musical centers around sensitive topics such as suicide, social anxiety, and mental health, it was vital that the performers were as raw and genuine as possible. Jessica Phillips, who plays Evan’s mother Heidi, portrayed a very strong female character. She was able to expertly portray her role of being unaware of her son’s secret life. Being a single mother, she works late hours to provide for Evan, but is clueless when it comes to genuinely being there for her son. Throughout the duration of the musical, the audience can feel remorse for Evan’s mother and empathize with Evan in the challenges he faces, due to the actors’ impactful emotions.
Essentially, one of the biggest components that contributed to the production’s success was its remarkable musical numbers. Even people who may not be completely familiar with the musical may have heard some of its popular songs such as “Waving Through a Window” or “You Will Be Found.” Watching the musical with barely any prior background knowledge except for the songs, I was ecstatic to discover how impactful and meaningful the lyrics were. For example, in “You Will Be Found,” Evan sings about feeling invisible and alone in the world. The song begins with a series of questions such as: Have you ever felt like nobody was there? Have you felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere? These songs shed some light on current day high school topics such as social anxiety and how to deal with it. The song then progresses into its uplifting chorus, promoting the value of true friendship and perseverance of getting back up through deep trials. Not to mention, the vocals and musicality of the entire cast was sublime and created a strong ensemble which further enhanced the performance.
Overall, the Dear Evan Hansen national tour was an unforgettable production that broke barriers in musical theater history. Its exceptional use of staging, acting and musicality all contributed to the theme of the play, in which the audience was able to be inspired and take away such a strong and powerful message of self-worth and value.