Review Roundup: DEAR EVAN HANSEN on Tour, What Did the Critics Think?
DEAR EVAN HANSEN on tour launched last year in Denver and is currently on tour across America! What are critics saying about the show in different cities across the country? Check out all the reviews for the hit musical below from tour stops in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta and more!
Dear Evan Hansen Tour Cast
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.
Wendell Brock, AJC: And there is masterful design, in the form of video projections (by Peter Nigrini) that depict the social media frenzy driving the action. (Sets are by David Korins, costumes by Emily Rebholz, lighting by Japhy Weideman, sound by Nevin Steinberg.) Steven Levenson, who wrote the book for the musical "Dear Evan Hansen," said the re-invention of one's own narrative is a typical teenage phenomenon, but adds that the advent of social media has put us all back in that adolescent quest to hang with the cool kids. "Technology has, in a way, made us all perpetually teenagers." But at its heart, "Dear Evan Hansen" is a profound and devastating exposé of the terror at work in the soul of dear Evan Hansen. A shattered scarecrow of a kid, he gets sucked into a private tragedy not of his making, only to find that he is so ill-equipped to handle the situation that he invents another kind of crisis and a very public one at that.
Manning Harris, Atlanta in Town: I thought that in recent years, with the aid of better and better technology, we had just about licked that old sound problem in the 4600-seat theatre. But often, in softly spoken or rapid dialogue, the words were garbled or just lost. It's wasn't the fault of the actors. The sound technicians have simply got to do better. If you can't understand the words, nothing else matters. When there was singing, things got better. I sincerely hope this problem is fixed immediately; there's no excuse for it.
Aaron Wallace, BroadwayWorld: Ultimately, I'm not sure that DEAR EVAN HANSEN lives up to the hype the way that Hamilton lived up to the hype, but it's a show worth seeing and knowing, both because it will be important to theatre history down the road and because it has something important to say today.
Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel: Excellent support is provided by all his cast mates, but in particular Maggie McKenna makes a believable teen as Evan's love interest. Both playing women whose lives and marriages haven't gone as planned, Christiane Noll and Jessica Phillips shine. And Jared Goldsmith provides comic relief as a self-serving high-school student.
Brittani Tuttle, Attractions Magazine: The vocal talents of the whole cast are phenomenal. In fact, Ben Levi Ross, who plays the tour's Evan Hansen, was the understudy on Broadway for a time before touring. The show's set is mostly projections, with a few other set pieces like beds, couches and tables representing the various rooms of the homes the story takes place in. For the most part, this musical takes place in a physical representation of social media and technology.
Cristine Struble, Culturess: Like the song "You Will Be Found," that phrase and sentiment flows throughout the musical. The found takes on many forms. Although the "found" is different for every person, that moment of clarity can be the ray of sunshine that keeps the swinging pendulum in the positive.
Andrew Meacham, Tampa Bay Times: Songs toward the beginning and end, For Forever and So Big/So Small, add truly moving moments enhanced by the performances of Ben Levi Ross as Evan and Jessica Phillips as his mother Heidi. Christiane Noll also does more than her share as Cynthia Murphy, Connor and Zoe's mom. In between lies a long string of imaginative falsehoods that barely miss being detected, the stuff of farce. But farce usually involves complicated plots, interlocking deceptions and mistaken identities. This show runs on a single gag and loses its suspense value before long. It makes excellent material for young people. For those who like to be engaged throughout, this smash hit falls short.
Jay Handelman, Herald Tribune: Christiane Noll and Aaron Lazar are equally impactful as Connor's parents, a wealthy couple who have grown distant while taking different approaches to raising Connor and his more upbeat sister, Zoe, the girl Evan likes. Marrick Smith makes the most of his brief appearances as Connor, but the sullen reality and the friendlier variation we see in Evan's imagination. Maggie McKenna is sweet and caring as Zoe. Jared Goldsmith and Phoebe Koyabe play other classmates who help Evan in his deceptions.
Josh Jackson, Paste Magazine: The musical relies heavily on the portrayal of its title character, first played by Ben Platt on and off Broadway. Seeing the play for the first time on its initial US tour, it's suddenly difficult for me to imagine anyone but Ben Levi Ross in the role. His comic timing and pathos as an anxious, depressive teenager are only surpassed by how that all comes through in his soaring vocals. To play a character who's shunned as an outcast but also empathetic in the face of his own horrendous mistakes isn't easy, but Ross seems born to play the part.
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.
West Coast Reviews
Jay Irwin, BroadwayWorld: The show is a winner! A perfect rendition of the Broadway show you may love or a killer, fresh story for you newbies out there. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "Dear Evan Hansen" at the Paramount" a completely found YAY+. And for those lamenting that they couldn't get tickets before it sold out, there's hope. Those poor souls who missed the show on Wednesday due to weather and travel circumstances got rescheduled to a new performance on Friday, February 1st at 1PM. But as it's a matinee not all could make it, so some got refunds. Which means there are tickets available again! And GO!
Brendan Kiley (and highschooler Lucy Laybourn), Seattle Times: New musicals like "Evan Hansen," she added, can be a little synthesizer-heavy. "But I get it, replacing wind instruments with that electronic element so they don't have to hire other musicians." Her final verdict? "I would definitely recommend the show to others," Lucy said, "but knowing how expensive traveling Broadway shows can be, I would advise them to think carefully about buying a ticket that costs a ridiculous amount of money unless they really love the show."
Christopher Smith, Orange County Register: For anyone craving a contemporary musical with its heart notably beating on display, "Dear Evan Hansen" delivers. A caution: there's a good chance you will be emotionally wrung out by the end of this, but joyfully so, and for the right reasons.
Michael Quintos, BroadwayWorld: An awards-worthy, powerhouse of a performance that keeps you absolutely mesmerized from start to finish, Ross brilliantly essays the role with a gamut of highs and lows appropriate to a character that suffers from debilitating social anxiety, depression, and, perhaps, even an more dire mental condition triggered by a past trauma that leaves him unable to fully engage in normal human interactions. It helps, too, that Ross is also blessed with a gorgeous singing voice that can be both angelic and ferocious, depending on the current mood of the moment. From his vocally-impressive opening "Waving Through A Window" and his lush take on "For Forever" to his knockout devastating "Words Fail" that left no dry eye in the theater, Ross---like his Tony winning predecessor Platt---is a truly gifted actor/singer.
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.
Dave Perry, Sentinel Colorado: The show's story, songs, characters and even the multi-media set pulls full-force at the audience from the first moments of the production. It immediately appeals to anyone who's struggled with the awkwardness of relationships and the critical pain of adolescence, which is pretty much everyone. Provocatively, the show puts issue dealing with child suicide and mental illness right in the spotlight.
Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver: Ben Levi Ross is so convincing in his role as Evan Hansen, lanky and fragile with a quirky demeanor that is clumsy and scared. He is full of anxiety, fear and loneliness. No real friends and too afraid to even answer the door for food delivery because it means having to interact with another human being. Yet he has to go to school and deal with everything that goes on there including other students.
Greg Moodly, CBS4: I never expected to be as touched, emotionally undone and deeply affected as I turned out to be. The characters, the story, the depth, the emotional insight, the music, the humor, the dramatic impact resonated across 60 years of theatregoing. I had, quite frankly, never seen anything like this show.
John Wenzel, The Know: There's supposed to be a sense in the end that something has been learned or dealt with after Evan's lies are exposed, that we got what we needed and everything is just fine. It feels at once rushed and pat, but it's analog to this crisply performed but mediocre show that has captured hearts by invoking - but never meaningfully dealing with - a host of issues. It's just fine.
Chris Arneson, BroadwayWorld: Ben Levi Ross brings an intuitive portrayal to Evan, letting the role's anxious quirks commendably consume his portrayal. Vocally he ascends through the complex score with ease, grounding the role's emotional core in all the right places.
About Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen is 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").
How to Get Tickets
Upcoming tour stops include Cincinnati, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Greenville, Boston, Washington, DC, Columbus, Milwaukee, Louisville and more!
For tickets for the National Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN visit https://dearevanhansen.com/tickets/.