Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh in on DEAR EVAN HANSEN in Chicago
Dear Evan Hansen has hit the road and is currently in Chicago, following its tour stops in Denver, Los Angeles, Tempe, San Francisco, Costa Mesa, Seattle and Las Vegas.
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 Grammy, Tony and Academy Award winners Benj Pasek & Justin Paul ("La La Land," "The Greatest Showman") and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif ("Rent," "Next to Normal").
The Dear Evan Hansen first national tour cast features Ben Levi Ross in the title role. Stage and TV star Jessica Phillips plays Heidi Hansen. Tony Award nominee Christiane Noll plays Cynthia Murphy and Broadway veteran Aaron Lazar plays Larry Murphy. Marrick Smith and Maggie McKenna round out the Murphy family (as Connor and Zoe, respectively), while Jared Goldsmith as Jared Kleinman and Phoebe Koyabe as Alana Beck complete the on-stage company.
The cast also includes Stephen Christopher Anthony (as the Evan alternate) along with understudies Ciara Alyse Harris, John Hemphill, Noah Kieserman, Jane Pfitsch,Coleen Sexton and Maria Wirries. Maggie McKenna is appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association.
Let's see what the critics are saying about the recent tour stops...
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: You might have some issues with the whole narrative trajectory - "Dear Evan Hansen" is about a troubled kid who exploits a classmate's suicide for his own purposes, claiming a friendship that never happened and deceiving a grieving family, but the show demands that you like and are willing to forgive him. You may demur. But most of us have traveled far enough down Evan Hansen's road, maybe long ago, to understand him. By the standards of most musicals, this is a small, conversational, familial story, closest in recent history to "Next to Normal," although with its focus firmly on a young man ill-equipped to deal with high school, yet alone the world at large.
Catey Sullivan, Chicago Sun-Times: As Evan's mother Heidi, Jessica Phillips emits the harried weariness of a single mother with a fulltime job, night school and a son she deeply loves but cannot reach and barely has time to see. As Connor, Smith radiates the dangerous rage of a kid who has never felt loved. And Koyabe makes you understand just why Alana is compelled to make Connor's death about herself.
Lisa Friedman Miner, Daily Herald: The focus on social media is just one of the ways "Dear Evan Hansen" manages to so accurately depict today's teens. The show also does justice to its adults. There are no villains, just loving parents trying to do their best and knowing -- as Phillips poignantly points out in "So Big/So Small" -- that they're destined to "come up short a million different ways."
Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: As Evan, Ben Levi Ross gives a formidable performance that commands great pathos. This role is clearly exhausting for Ross, both physically and emotionally. He portrays Evan's anxiety with such command, from the rapid blinking and the unease with which he delivers every single "Um" in the character's dialogue. Ross is also a superb singer and finds so many moments to emote in each song. While much is made of "Waving Through A Window," Ross's delivery is perhaps even more remarkable in his other early solo, "For Forever." In the song, Evan fabricates a perfect day in the life of his friendship with Connor to share with his parents. Ross conveys with such profundity the fantasy that Evan crafts in this song, as we see him start to buy into his own lie. It's a nuanced Take That drives home the character's journey in the first of many destructive decisions to follow. Ross gives a performance that is truly virtuoso.
Molly Walsh, Columbia Chronicle: In its entirety, the show was entertaining, thought-provoking and, at some points, agonizing. The music, lyrics, script and choreography tell the narrative of a young person experiencing declining mental health. The story also sheds light on the other battle that comes with mental health: admitting there is a battle in the first place.