Review: DEAR EVEN HANSEN at Des Moines Performing Arts

This powerful production returns to Des Moines Performing Arts through June 11.

By: Jun. 07, 2023
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Review: DEAR EVEN HANSEN at Des Moines Performing Arts
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Dear Broadwayworld Reader. This week is going to be a good week. That is because "Dear Evan Hansen" is back in Des Moines through June 11. In 2019, Des Moines Performing Arts brought the first national tour of "Dear Evan Hansen" early in its run. So it's fitting that it is returning to Des Moines this week as one of its final stops before the tour closes in July. Another reason it's a fitting way to wind up its tour is that as part of the Independent Producers Network, Des Moines Performing Arts has invested in the show's Broadway, National Tour, and London productions. If you've seen the show in the past, or even the movie, after seeing it on opening night in Des Moines, I can say with certainty "Dear Evan Hansen" is worth revisiting.

"Dear Evan Hansen" starts as Evan Hansen prepares for the first day of his senior year of high school. As he starts, his mother reminds him that he needs to write his Dear Evan Hansen letter for his therapy appointment that day. Before he leaves, she gives him a Sharpie so he can hopefully talk to a few people and get them to sign his cast. When he gets to school, he has a hard time asking people. While in the school library, another student, Conner Murphy, tells him he will sign his cast. Shortly after signing it, he finds Evan's letter for his therapy appointment. When he sees his sister mentioned in the letter, he angrily leaves and takes the note. We soon find out that Conner has taken his life, and his parents only found Evan's letter. They take this to be his suicide note. This sets off a series of events that lets us see how Evan, his school, and Connor's family deal with the suicide.  

When it first came to Des Moines, "Dear Evan Hansen" was one of the first shows I had the opportunity to review. So it was thrilling for me to return and take another look at this show and what made it successful across the world. This time seeing the show, I was taken by the simplicity of David Korins's set. Every piece used during the show has a specific purpose. Keeping it to a few pieces on stage at a time allows Peter Nigrini's projections to fill in what the audiences need to see to visually tell the story. This is all tied together beautifully with Japhy Weideman's stellar lighting design and Emily Rebholz's costumes.

The most thrilling part of seeing this show again was seeing it with an entirely different cast than before. Many of the cast members from its first stop in Des Moines joined the Broadway production and stayed with the show until its run in September 2022. The same could be done with many of these actors if the show was still running on Broadway. There is a complexity to the characters in this show, who have their own flaws. What makes this interesting is how each actor tackles the complexities of their character.  

Going into the show, I knew that Evan was sometimes an awkward character. There are many ways an actor can take the character. Anthony Norman has done an excellent job finding that awkwardness the character needs without it becoming distracting from his performance. What I appreciated most about his performance was the growth he took his character through. As his character became more confident through the show, the nuances of his version of Evan changed as well.

Another performance I have to point out was Reese Sabastian Diaz in the role of Jared Kleinman. Reese is one of the shows' understudies for the roles of Evan Hansen, Connor Murphy, and Jared Kleinman. He did an excellent job with the role. I've always thought of Jared as the comic relief in the show. He brings out the comedy the character is known for, but there was depth to the character I hadn't noticed before, especially in the second act when his character starts being left out of a project.

Des Moines Performing Arts has contributed to making "Dear Evan Hansen" lnown across the globe. So as its tour comes to a close, it's fitting it has returned to Des Moines. If you are returning to the show, it's an excellent opportunity to look at areas of the show you may not have noticed before. Each aspect of this show beautifully works together to make a performance that will stick with audiences long after the tour closes. Performances will continue through June 11. To learn more information or purchase tickets, visit the link below.


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