Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off on DEAR EVAN HANSEN in Toronto
The Tony Award-winning smash hit celebrated opening night of its first international production on March 28th.
The Toronto company of Dear Evan Hansen celebrated their official opening night on March 28th! The cast includes Robert Markus as 'Evan Hansen', Stephanie La Rochelle as 'Zoe Murphy', Jessica Sherman as 'Heidi Hansen', Claire Rankin as 'Cynthia Murphy', Evan Buliung as 'Larry Murphy', Sean Patrick Dolan as 'Connor Murphy', Alessandro Costantini as 'Jared Kleinman', and Shakura Dickson as 'Alana Beck', along with Zachary Noah Piser as the 'Evan' alternate and understudies Erin Breen, Malinda Carroll, Jay Davis, David Jeffery, Laura Mae Nason, Kaitlyn Santa Juana and Josh Strobl.
Produced in Toronto by Stacey Mindich and David Mirvish, the first international production of the multi-Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen began performances at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on March 5, 2019 and is now on stage through June 30, 2019. The show officially opens in Toronto on Thursday March 28, 2019.
The winner of six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen features a book by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson, a score by Academy Award, and Tony & Grammy Award-winning composers Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, and direction by 4-time Tony® Award nominee Michael Greif. The Grammy Award-winning Original Broadway Cast Recording of Dear Evan Hansen produced by Atlantic Records, was released in February 2017, making an extraordinary debut on the Billboard 200 and entering the chart at #8 - the highest charting debut position for an original cast album since 1961 - and went on to win the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album. A new deluxe version of the cast recording, including six bonus tracks and a pop cover from Katy Perry of "Waving through a Window" is now available digitally.
Declared "One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history" by the Washington Post's Peter Marks, Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre to rave reviews on December 4, 2016, where it's broken all box office records and has struck a chord with critics and audiences alike. In addition to the Broadway and Toronto productions, there is a national tour currently underway with performances scheduled across North America, and a London production set to debut in October 2019 at the Noel Coward Theatre. The Broadway production recently celebrated its two-year anniversary with a special donation to the Smithsonian, where the show's iconic blue polo and arm cast will now be part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
Rolling Stone calls Dear Evan Hansen, "a game-changer that hits you like a shot in the heart" and The New York Times raves "a gut-punching, breathtaking knockout of a musical."
In addition to winning six 2017 Tony awards and a 2018 Grammy Award, Dear Evan Hansen has won numerous other awards, including the 2017 Drama League Award for Outstanding Musical Production and for the off-Broadway production, two Obie Awards, a Drama Desk Award, and two Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Helen Hayes Awards.
Dear Evan Hansen features scenic design by David Korins, projection design by Peter Nigrini, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, and hair design by David Brian Brown. Music supervision, orchestrations and additional arrangements are by Alex Lacamoire. Ben Cohn is the Associate Music Supervisor. Vocal arrangements and additional arrangements are by Justin Paul. Danny Mefford is the choreographer. Casting by Stephanie Gorin. Sash Bischoff, Adam Quinn and Danny Sharron are the Associate Directors. Judith Schoenfeld is the Production Supervisor. US General Management 101 Productions, Ltd.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Carly Maga, Toronto Star: This production is ultimately successful because Markus earns the sympathy that the story gives Evan, which leaves him remarkably unscathed from his trail of unethical decisions. Once you're outside of the theatre, the entire story feels ickier and creepier than it ever did from the plush seats of the Royal Alex - from Evan's initial unhealthy obsession with Zoe, to the gaslighting effect his lies have on her traumatic relationship to Connor, to way the Murphys are dropped amid an incredibly stressful, unresolved situation.
J. Kelly Nestruck, Globe and Mail: The most emotionally effective performance here comes from Ms. Sherman's slow-build as Evan's single mother. Heidi spends a lot of time not paying enough attention to her son - but when she finally connects with the song So Big/So Small, the woman in the seat in front of me pulled out the Kleenex and passed it down her row. (I could have used a sheet or two.)
Glenn Sumi, Now Magazine: What's jarring is that so much of the show is bleakly cynical. When Evan becomes popular, his friends, including Jared and classmate Alana (Shakura Dickson), are little more than opportunists. On social media, people co-opt the central tragedy and make it all about themselves, or turn self-righteous on a dime. This contradicts the feeling of redemption, forgiveness and we're-all-in-this-together-empathy that the show tries so hard to sell.
Alison Broverman, National Post: As Evan, Robert Markus leads an exceptional cast who sell this strange, cynical story alarmingly well. Markus's Evan is so vulnerable and loveable that the audience can't help but root for him despite the terrible hole he digs for himself. As Connor's mother, Claire Rankin radiates the desperation of a parent whose love was, tragically, not enough for their child. And Evan Buliung is cornering the market on troubled musical dads after winning a Dora last year for his performance in Fun Home.
Wayne Leung, Mooney on Theatre: In the end, I really enjoyed Dear Evan Hansen but it also left me conflicted. The plot centres on Evan's deception and whenever I found myself empathizing with him I was troubled by the implications. We live in an era of disinformation and "fake news" where facts don't seem to matter as long as something makes you feel the way you want so I couldn't fully emotionally invest in the character despite his lies because my rational, critical brain was trying to protect me from being emotionally manipulated.
Alexandra Heilbron, Tribute: The production is absolutely stunning, from the songs to the story, to the sets that swing in and out. It was fascinating every time Connor appeared onstage after his death - because he wasn't Connor as he had been, but as Evan wished he'd been, if they'd been the kind of friends Evan has been describing to the Murphys.