Review Roundup: The National Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN - 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 Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, DC and more!
Dear Evan Hansen Tour Cast
The Dear Evan Hansen national tour cast features Stephen Christopher Anthony in the title role. Jessica E. Sherman plays Heidi Hansen. Claire Rankin plays Cynthia Murphy and John Hemphill plays Larry Murphy. Noah Kieserman and Stephanie La Rochelle round out the Murphy family (as Connor and Zoe, respectively), while Alessandro Costantini as Jared Kleinman and Samantha Williams as Alana Beck complete the on-stage company.
The cast also includes Sam Primack (as the Evan alternate) along with understudies David Jeffery, Matthew Edward Kemp, Ciara Elyse Harris, Asher Muldoon, Coleen Sexton, Daniel Robert Sullivan, Kelsey Venter, and Maria Wirries.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
John Szablewski, Buffalo Theatre Guide: Wow. I had no prior knowledge of "Dear Evan Hansen" before last night when I witnessed it first hand. What I saw was a theatrical event that is near perfect. The story meshed, the music flowed, the acting and singing were spectacular. This musical not only had a great message that is completely topical in 2019, but is one of the only shows that I have seen in years that is completely relatable to every single person in the audience. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. I think this year I have seen at least three shows that have become my "new favorite musical." This makes number four.
Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising: The giant Shea's stage is draped with scrims upon which are projected various social media posts, slowly scrolling, which are what you see as you enter the theater. This is used very cleverly before each act to remind the audience to silence their phones. And it created a "life imitates art" moment when I looked out over the audience before each act and saw all those tiny screens throughout the seats, and projections of other tiny screens up on the stage. I did not see DEAR EVAN HANSEN on Broadway, but I have listened to the original Broadway cast recording and can report that the touring Evan, Ben Levi Ross, sounds pretty darn close to the Tony Award winning (2017 Best Actor in a Musical) Ben Platt, in a score that requires constantly shifting from chest voice to head voice and back again. No easy trick. Note: the weekend matinees will feature Stephen Christopher Anthony in the role of Evan Hansen.
Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Dear Evan Hansen" stands out among the crowd of today's teen musicals as original and of the moment, and that is its staying power as it continues to play to larger-than-capacity crowds on Broadway. The show's auspicious debut in Pittsburgh fills in the blank that Evan cannot when he writes, "It's going to be a good day because ..." It's going to be a good day because you got to experience "Dear Evan Hansen."
Brian Gentry, The Pitt News: Where the first act excelled in artistic ability, the second act matched in acting and plot development. This was where the heavy-hitting subjects came to the foreground and where the supporting characters' acting abilities shone. Heidi Hansen is portrayed by Jessica Phillips. She was the star of the second act and did a fantastic job playing the imperfect, struggling mother who is just trying to relate to her kid. Her secondhand pain was visible as she recognized the emotional issues Evan was hiding from her, and many people in the audience cried with her in empathy.
Brian Bix, Twin Cities Arts: The whole cast is brilliant. Both Jessica Phillips as Heidi Hansen and Christiane Noll as Cynthia Murphy perfectly illustrate mothers trying valiantly, if not always successfully, to raise troubled children (displayed in the wonderful song, "Anybody Have a Map?"). Also pitch-perfect are Ciara Alyse Harris as nerdy, lonely Alan Beck; Jared Goldsmith as "family friend" and sex-obsessed Jared Kleinman; and Aaron Lazar as the confused and emotionally repressed Larry Murphy. Marrick Smith has the difficult role of trying to display Connor's suicidal loneliness in a handful of moments at the beginning of the play, and then appearing throughout the rest of the play as the "imagined Connor" of Evan's and Jared's storytelling. Maggie McKenna has perhaps the most complex character, Zoe: who hated her brother while he was alive, and has much to do to work through her feelings about her parents and the various versions of Connor and Evan that are presented to her.
Andrea Simakis, Cleveland.com: For much of the second act, Evan grapples with the morality of living a counterfeit life. Plenty of plays and musicals, everything from "Hamlet" to "Mean Girls," have preached the mantra: "Be true to yourself." "Dear Evan Hansen" shares that timeworn theme. But few modern-day fables about the way we live now have delivered that message with as much feeling and clear-eyed empathy for everyone onstage, kids and adults alike. This is a musical that sends its message straight to our hearts.
Dr. Kate Roark, Carolina Curtain Call: It's impossible not to empathize with Jessica Phillips as Evan's single-mother, Heidi Hansen. Phillips conveys in every word and gesture the struggle of trying to be everything her troubled teenage son needs while working full-time and going to school. Though I found Phillips' acting flawless, her singing was a tad too nasal for me in "Anybody Have a Map," and "Good For You." Phillips rendition of "So Big/So Small" brings the house down at the end of the show.
Neil Shurley, BroadwayWorld: Dear Evan Hansen brings a slice of that time to vivid life, while also exploring the flip side: the challenges of being a parent. I can see the show from both sides, from that kid inside me and the father that I am now. And it's remarkably contemporary, utilizing projections - and hilariously right sound effects - to present scrolling Twitter feeds, viral videos, and even FaceTime calls.
Christopher Caggiano, The Arts Fuse: Of course, the real lynchpin to any cast of Dear Evan Hansen will be the young man who plays the title character, and Ben Levi Ross certainly doesn't disappoint. Ross brings a palpable humanity to the role, and an unnerving realism to the character's paralyzing anxiety. Although Ross possesses an undeniably strong singing voice, he's somewhat more effective during Evan's spoken scenes. Evan's breakdown while speaking at a school assembly was almost unbearable to witness, which made the subsequent song, the anthemic "You Will Be Found," a minor miracle of quiet dignity.
Iris Fanger, MetroWest Daily News: The dual themes of teenagers adrift in an alien world, and parents unable to find their way to truly see and hear them, make "Dear Evan Hansen" a don't- miss, universal experience for everyone. Have no doubts. Even though a show seldom lives up to its hype, this one does.
Jan Nargi, BroadwayWorld: Ultimately, though, the full power of DEAR EVAN HANSEN is ignited by the remarkably nuanced performance of the young Ben Levi Ross. With a mellifluous voice reminiscent of Josh Groban's and an instinct for character development that can not be taught, Ross is quite simply magnificent. He makes a quirky, needy, and ever more deceitful misfit truly sympathetic. His nervous tics and self-effacing humor are totally endearing. He captivates the audience with an underlying pain and longing that is palpable yet tightly held.
Carolyn Clay, WBUR: Marrick Smith is an explosive presence as Connor, alive or dead, engaging posthumously with Ross' Evan and Jared Goldsmith's devilish Jared in a chest- and fist-bumping dance to the snappily upbeat "Sincerely, Me." As tyrannous high-school uber-organizer Alana, Phoebe Koyabe is the epitome of hanger-on grief, repeatedly describing her relationship to Connor as one of "close acquaintance." As genuinely moving and tuned to the zeitgeist as "Dear Evan Hansen" is, it needs a little levity. And in Goldsmith and Koyabe's mischievous portraits of teens less "broken" than Evan, it gets it.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: In the Eisenhower Theater - where on Wednesday the actors still seemed to be adjusting to the acoustic demands of the space - Ross makes for an appealing leading man. With fine support from Jessica Phillips, as Evan's hapless mother, and Maggie McKenna as the girl he longs to impress, Ross builds an Evan with whom we come to empathize deeply. (In this age in which we've all come to see so clearly the corrosive effects of public mendacity, persuading us to open our hearts to a liar is no small feat.) Ross's performance achieves the requisite apotheosis in Evan's confessional second-act aria, "Words Fail," a song that will have you near tears - if you have any heart at all.
Evann Normandin, BroadwayWorld: Despite its larger than life presence and digital following, Dear Evan Hansen is an intimate affair. In the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre I felt the people around me ride the waves of emotion, stifle sobs, and gasp. I watched companions grasp each other's hands as if to say, "do you feel what I feel?" Dear Evan Hansen invites you to feel empathy for the outcasts, the misfits, and anyone who has ever made, and regretted, a mistake. Our hyper-connect, hyper-disconnected world is reflected back to us in a way that invites true catharsis. It is an experience that will resonate long after the final chords of "For Forever."
Andra Abramson, DC Metro Theater Arts: The role of Evan Hansen requires strong acting and singing skills and Ben Levi Ross is up to the task, holding the audience in the palm of his hand from the first minute of the show. Ross masterfully plays the role of a misfit among misfits (his only two "friends," Alana and Jared are also on the nerdy side with social issues of their own) but visibly grows more confident as the story progresses. He guides the audience through Evan's growth from a scared kid on the verge of doing something terrible to a confident young man able to face whatever challenges might come his way.
Lynne Menefee, Maryland Theatre Guide: The set by David Korn and projection design by Peter Nigrini are stunning in their simplicity and impact. Set pieces are compact and roll smoothly in an out of the scenes. Various-sized panels loom large as they hang above the stage in different heights, levels, and depths. On them, Nigrini's projections create the endless feeds of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, reflecting both the isolation and the connection of social media. The effect is complete with the expert contributions of lighting design by Japhy Weideman and sound design by Nevin Steinberg.
Jeffrey Ellis, BroadwayWorld: Dear Evan Hansen is superb theater, no matter how you look at it, and its incisive consideration of contemporary social customs will have far-reaching impact for generations to come. The characters - Evan, Connor, Zoe and their parents and schoolmates Jared and Alana - are richly drawn and multi-dimensional (even if, at times, one might think them a tad stereotypical and created by rote) - are authentic, as if plucked from among your own circle of friends and "close acquaintances." Levenson's book is beautifully written and sharply focused and anyone watching should be able to catch glimpses of people, small moments of life that are seemingly taken from their own lives.
Michael Grossberg, The Columbus Dispatch: Jane Pfitsch is ultimately heartbreaking as Heidi Hansen, Evan's loving but distracted and overworked single mother. Her belated solo "So Big/So Small" brims with love, regret and healing wisdom about how parents do their best but still can come up short. Marrick Smith finds the angry intensity and volatility in Connor Murphy (the role that earned Gahanna native Mike Faist a Tony nomination), whose tragic act of destruction transforms and haunts Evan's world. Broadway veteran Christiane Noll ("Ragtime," "Elf") exudes grief and ravaged hope as Cynthia Murphy, Connor's distraught mom, opposite John Hemphill as Connor's numbed and saddened dad.
Richard Sanford, ColumbusUnderground: The tour, directed by Michael Greif, uses a set full of screens (designed by David Korins with Amanda Stephens as associate scenic designer) as effective as I've ever seen. It juggles the in-your-face verité qualities required by raging teenage emotions with sly commentary - aided by a small band staged above the actors and sharp, evocative lighting by Japhy Weideman and sound by Nevin Steinberg. If your interest is piqued by all the buzz about this show, or if you have teenagers yourself, this tour of Dear Evan Hansen delivers. It feels a safe bet we'll see these young actors again and again for years.
Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The excellent casting, the care with which each character was created and is performed, the heart-tugging music and the slick stagecraft make this the best musical I have seen at the Marcus Center in recent memory. Please excuse me while I go find a towel to dry my hands.
Kelsey Lawler, BroadwayWorld: Somehow, through all this nervous introversion, Anthony also nails the reason we're all here: the songs. His delivery rarely feels all-out, rather he kind of sings into himself as you'd expect a shy teen to do. How he can effortlessly flow between octaves without belting his lungs out is astonishing. One wonders what his instrument could do if he turned the dial up a few notches. Still, it's admirable to stay so true to character. Anthony is especially captivating in quiet moments -- a credit to his magnetism, even when playing a kid who feels invisible.
Kathryn Gregory, Louisville Courier Journal: "Dear Evan Hansen" is more than just escapist theater - it carries a heavy social message that should impact each and every person in the audience in a real way. Will I find myself singing the songs to myself in the coming weeks the way a show like "Hamilton" or "Wicked" seeps deep into your brain? Probably not. But will I be thinking about the real-life issues it tackles with both earnestness and raw human emotion? Absolutely.
Taylor Clemons, BroadwayWorld: The touring company is lead by Stephen Christopher Anthony as Evan Hansen. I was lucky enough to see him play the role earlier this year in Cincinnati when he was still the alternate, and his performance at that time was great, but the amount he has grown within five short months is nothing short of amazing. From the second takes the stage he radiates the raw manic energy that embodies the character of Evan, and as the show goes on he unfolds the character layer by layer to create the complex and flawed person we know as Evan Hansen.
Chris Miritello, BroadwayWorld: The other standout in the cast is Ms. La Rochelle as Zoe. Not to be dismissed as the prototypical "pretty girl in school" character, she imbues Zoe with refreshing complexity and emotional maturity. Her voice is exceedingly pleasant and ethereal, qualities most notable on Act I's "Requiem" and again on display in Act II's "Only Us." In an ensemble of characters with more brash personality traits, it is the understated performance of Ms. La Rochelle that serves as a counterpoint and gives the production its needed grounding and balance.
Alan Portner, BroadwayWorld: This cast does a fine job of bringing Evan's story to life. An excellent projection scheme gives the set an interesting and effective feel of something that is happening right as we watch it. The Steven Levenson book with score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul suit the material. The voices are all impeccable.
Mark Bretz, Ladue News: Anthony is endearing in the title role, capturing the awkward teen's vulnerability as well as his optimism and innate cheerfulness. The excellent supporting cast includes Jessica E. Sherman as his mother Heidi, who wants only the best for her son while also holding out for some self-dignity. John Hemphill and Claire Rankin show two different but equal approaches to grief as Larry and Cynthia Murphy, parents of the troubled Connor and also Zoe, who resents what she perceives as second-class status in the family. Stephanie La Rochelle brings believability and tenderness to the latter portrayal.
Kevin Brackett, Review St. Louis: Having never seen the show before, I can honestly say I was left mesmerized by Dear Evan Hansen. There's no question as to why audiences are attracted to the touching story and outstanding musical numbers. The tour is hitting the ground running, with a wonderful cast and the story you've fallen in love with by seeing it in New York - or listening to the original cast recording on repeat. "You will be found" is a powerful message, and one that you will undoubtedly never forget after seeing this important musical.
Brad Rhines, NOLA.com: There's no weak link in the impressive cast of capable performers, all of whom contribute to the show's tight-fisted emotional core and occasional comic relief. Sherman, as Evan's mom, particularly shines, her helplessness highlighted in the opening number "Anybody Have a Map?" and bookended by the heartbreaking closer "So Big/So Small."
Mark Lowry, TheaterJones: Dear Evan Hansen isn't as musically interesting as at least two of the musicals it beat for the Tony, Come from Away and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. The success of DEH lies in its depiction of how social media affects the generation of kids who never knew school without smart phones or Instagram - a beauty that is not apparent until one sees the show rather than being acquainted solely through the cast album, no matter how viral.
Anthony makes for a highly appealing Evan. The character is mostly introverted with occasional moments of getting outside of himself, and Anthony plays both sides extremely well. His voice is not standard issue Broadway, but it works great for the character. The rest of the cast are excellent complements to him, especially Sherman and La Rochelle. The journey through which Dear Evan Hansen takes audiences is emotionally complex but thoroughly rewarding. Don't confuse it for a blockbuster, though; it's an intimate show with songs and characters that hide their truths until just the right moments.
Andrew J. Friedenthal, Austin360: "Dear Evan Hansen" is a deeply emotional piece of theater with universal appeal that will register with most audience members. For teenagers, though, this show has the potential to provide a crucial message of hope that is so often lacking in other media, and one that just might prove to be life-saving to those who need that message the most.