Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh in on DEAR EVAN HANSEN in Los Angeles, Arizona, and San Francisco!
"Dear Evan Hansen" is currently playing at the Curran in San Francisco, following its tour stops in Denver, Los Angeles, and Arizona.
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...
Michael Cooper, LA Weekly: L.A. native Ben Levi Ross' take on Evan Hansen skillfully displays the character's awkwardness, and his voice is great, especially when he hits those high notes. But in some scenes it's a bit hard to believe he's a straight teenager in love with Zoe Murphy. The show addresses how Evan's fake emails with Connor almost make it seem as if they had a romantic relationship, and Ross' portrayal of the character makes this seem even more plausible.
Dany Margolies, Daily News: Still, the performers bringing "Evan Hansen" to the stage beautifully craft their characters and boast potent singing voices. In particular, Ross emotionally brims over, and his powerhouse voice sells songs even when the lyrics might not.
As Michael Greif has directed him, however, he makes Evan's nerdy mannerisms large, and they don't tone down in the private moments of Evan's soliloquies. By the show's end, he has possibly physically exhausted himself or, more likely, is showing Evan's growing confidence, though our doubts remain.
Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline: The understudy for Tony winner Ben Platt on the original Broadway production, it's clear that Ross is destined for greatness with his performance as Evan, belting out song after song with an unbelievable amount verve and strength, starting with the musical's most recognizable song "Waving Through A Window", which is the foundation of the show's intent.
Herbert Paine, BroadwayWorld: Ben Levi Ross delivers the goods with a profoundly moving portrayal of Evan, eliciting both uncomfortable laughter and unabashed sympathy. With a voice that soars into heavenly territory, Ross owns the character. His mannerisms ~ the rapid-fire chatter of uncertain and ill conceived stabs at communication, the nervous jerking of his body, the bewildered frowns, the awkward tugging at the corner of his shirt when it seems there's nothing else to hold onto ~ convey a portrait of a boy in dire straits.
Kerry Lengel, AZ Central: The title character is a high-school senior with crippling social anxiety, played here by Ben Levi Ross, who may or may not be overdoing it a teensy bit, but he sure can sing.
Karen D'Souza, Mercury News: Ross captures Evan's anxiety and his awkwardness but there's still not quite enough to the story to make it cut to the bone. The lyrics veer into cliche and the set, a throbbing, strobe-lit beehive of screen alerts, often reveals more about the themes than Steven Levenson's underwritten book.
Rachel Norby, Theatrius: As Evan Hansen, Ben Levi Ross shines as a nerdy male lead. His Evan is strikingly twitchy and nervous, jerking away from eye contact. Ross glides into song, with heartfelt vocals, revealing how an "outsider" feels. Songs like "For Forever" and "Disappear" share the suffering of painfully self-conscious teens.
Jay Barmann, 7x7: "I'd rather pretend I'm something better than these broken parts/ pretend I'm something other than this mess that I am," Evan sings in "Words Fail." But from this emotional mess of a boy springs a show that doesn't need to pretend at greatness. It crackles with truth and comforts us with some genuinely hopeful moments, but not before tearing us apart in the way of great tragedies. Let's just hope the inevitable glut of high school productions can do this complex show some justice.
David John Chavez, Bay Area Plays: The show's strength rides on the coattails of the stripe-shirted marvel Ross, whose approach is rooted in truth. He doesn't look at anyone with his eyes, but shoots darts with the top of his head, the lanky, wobbly teen whose every interaction is harrowing. He shreds vocally, with a zealous combination of romantic sentimentality and frenetic skittishness. The compositions by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul soar mightily from the golden throat of Ross.
Leslie Katz, SF Examiner: As Evan, clear-voiced Ben Levi Ross nails the high notes and earns immediate empathy from his opening tune "Waving Through a Window," as he warbles, "On the outside, always looking in/Will I ever be more than I've always been?"
Jessica Phillips is excellent as Evan's single mom, the most sympathetic character, a busy nurse doing her best to help her troubled son.