Review Roundup: DEAR EVAN HANSEN Opens at Second Stage Theatre- All the Reviews!

By: May. 01, 2016
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Second Stage Theatre, in association with Stacey Mindich Productions, presents the new musical, Dear Evan Hansen, featuring Ben Platt as the title character. Also reprising their performances from the "splendid (Marks, Washington Post) DC cast are Laura Dreyfuss as Zoe, Mike Faist as Connor, Rachel Bay Jones as Heidi, Will Roland as Jared, Jennifer Laura Thompson as Cynthia. New cast members John Dossett (Larry) and Kristolyn Lloyd (Alana) complete the company.

All his life Evan Hansen has felt invisible. To his peers, to the girl he loves, sometimes even to his own mother. But that was before he wrote the letter - that led to the incident- that started the lie - that ignited a movement - that inspired a community - and changed Evan's status from the ultimate outsider into the somebody everyone wants to know. But how long can Evan keep his secret? And at what price?

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: "Dear Evan Hansen," which opened on Sunday at Second Stage Theaterin a superb production directed by Michael Greif, addresses with great heart and humor both the social anxiety we all experience at some point or another and the new modes of communication that can amplify either a sense of belonging or nonbelonging.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: While Pasek and Paul's score delves heavily into teen angst, the standout moment - simple but shattering - is a ballad for Evan's mom recalling her feelings when her husband left them, assuring her son that she will always be there for him DEAR EVAN HANSEN is a captivating musical drama that leaves you with a bit of optimistic warmth and thrill of having witnessed an exemplary artistic achievement.

Matt Windman, amNY: The storytelling is timely, engrossing and complex. The tone alternates between gentle, satirical, provocative and wrenching. The songs are seamlessly integrated into the book. Greif's intimate staging is built around digital projections that materialize on shifting panels. Bottom line: This is a musical meant for teens, parents and anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. It has the potential to attract a big following, and deservedly so.

Linda Winer, Newsday: In more than one way, the show feels like a companion to "Next to Normal," the 2010 Pulitzer winner that Greif directed at this theater. That one involved a mom with catastrophic bipolar depression and delusions about a dead son. Despite the acclaim, the show's score struck me as too light for its heavy lifting. This time, the music-except for late-breaking dopey lyrics about stepping "into the sun"-is up to the demands. But the book, by Steven Levenson, keeps finding easy ways out of the crises. It's not hard to imagine why people want a musical to end in a smile button. It is harder, I'm afraid, to earn it.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Of many commendable elements in Steven Levenson's book is the subtle note on which the story wraps. We've sat in the audience imagining every possible scenario for how it all may play out, but the team keeps up the suspense. Where it all lands, finally, feels textured, accessible, believable and original. Paging Broadway?

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: Not since Spring Awakening has a new musical spoken more directly than Dear Evan Hansen to the melancholy adolescent outsider buried inside us. According to one observer here, high school can be a lonely time of life for everyone except cheerleaders and football stars, and if there's a hint of maudlin teen pandering to the show's sentiments, there's also enough sincere emotion to make it quite affecting. That's due to smart writing and a fine cast led by Ben Platt, best known for the Pitch Perfect movies, in a breakout performance full of self-effacing humor, raw feeling and endearingly awkward grace. Only please let's not call him adorkable.

Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly: Despite the musical's occasional flaws in pacing - its rather rushed second act could use some retooling and lose an expository song or two - Platt's performance, and the emotions he draws out of the audience, lingers long after his final bow. B+

Peter Marks, Washington Post It was pretty stunning last summer at Arena Stage, where it had its world premiere. Now, in its New York debut at off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre, where it opened officially Sunday night, "Dear Evan Hansen" is even better. As a result of some skillful minor surgery by its creators, the musical and its infectious pop score now provide a more balanced family canvas, and a more refined psychological arc for its main character, a desperately lonely teenage boy whose self-serving mendacity mushrooms into a humiliating and hurtful public spectacle. This is a more finely wrought premise for a musical than one normally encounters: indeed, the show feels modeled at times on the sophisticated handiwork of musical theater's smartest composer, Stephen Sondheim. It takes a certain advanced aptitude to achieve clarity in a musical that features both complex exposition and a desire to capture acute nuances of personality in song.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Composer-lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have written intelligent lyrics that are sometimes more commentary than poetry. Their music features easy, uncomplicated melodies. The score is best when Alex Lacamoire's orchestrations support the vocal line with only a piano or a few string instruments. Invariably, however, a simple tune is inflated to deliver the big moment with too much percussion and a bouncy syncopation used by every other modern musical.

Jesse Green, Vulture: Musicals are uniquely adept at telling large stories about individuals in conflict with society-so capable of doing so that we sometimes forget how smart they can be about individuals in conflict with themselves. In the former category, think about Porgy and Bess, West Side Story, andSweeney Todd. In the latter, think about, well, Fun Home. And, now, Dear Evan Hansen, the terrific musical - songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; book by Steven Levenson - that opened tonight at Second Stage. Like Fun Home, its focus is very tight, its subject is very dark, and its songs spiral inward as its implications stretch outward. But also like Fun Home, it makes of these constraints a powerfully emotional and often uncomfortably funny experience. It's the feel-anxious musical of the season.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Ben Platt, known for playing nerdy Benji in the "Pitch Perfect" films, is a heart-breaker as geeky outcast Evan. He's a good kid who does a bad thing. How could he? The excellent "Waving Through a Window" lends clues to the answer, without being an excuse. The song is an anthem for anyone who's ever felt alienated, adrift, alone - pretty much everyone.

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: Combine one of the finest new scores we've heard since-well, Fun Home and that little musical about the man on the ten-dollar bill; an altogether gripping performance from a young actor named Ben Platt; and a bracing production from director Michael Grief (of Rent and Next to Normal), and you can see where this is heading. Emotionally raw, uncompromisingly honest shows are especially hard to pull off. When everything works, though, they are a marvel to behold.

Alexis Soloski, Guardian: Watching Dear Evan Hansen, one often thinks of Next to Normal, another Second Stage show about a mentally distressed protagonist (it was bipolar disorder there, anxiety disorder here). The shows share a director, Michael Greif, and a similarly slick design. But with its tuneful pop score and teenage protagonist, Dear Evan Hansen is a gentler affair, even as it takes occasional pains not to oversentimentalize the material. When Evan presents a surprisingly rosy picture of her brother, his sister Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss) sings, "Don't say it wasn't true/ That you were not the monster/ That I knew."

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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