Review: DEAR EVAN HANSEN at Times Union Center For The Performing Arts

The production runs now through January 30th.

By: Jan. 26, 2022
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Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Jacksonville, this week is going to be a good week. And here's why because Dear Evan Hansen is stopping here this week! The incredibly heart-wrenching and beautiful show follows the story of Evan Hansen, a senior in high school who struggles with anxiety and can't seem to "fit in." Evan wants to make his senior year a good year to please his mom, but also to feel like he belongs. However, when a letter he writes to himself is put into the wrong hands, it becomes a very complicated situation in which someone's small lie becomes a complete mess. The Jacksonville audience at the opening performance was in awe of the show, laughter heard at the much-needed comic relief, as well as many tears and sniffles heard throughout the theatre.

"Words Fail" accurately describes the incredible talent of the leading man, Evan Hansen (Stephen Christopher Anthony). Not only does he play the awkward, anxiety-riddled high school student stereotypically, but in a completely relatable way. Anthony brought tears to my eyes, and my face mask and shirt, in his performances of "For Forever", "You Will Be Found", and "Words Fail." Anthony was born to play the role of Evan Hansen.

The company was also spectacular. Evan's love interest, Zoe Murphy (Stephanie La Rochelle), was wonderful. The audience watched as the character grows through feeling annoyed with her brother, feeling conflicted at losing her brother, catching feelings for a boy she never knew existed, and then finding out so much of what she knew was a lie. This was displayed in "Requiem" in which the Murphy's are all grieving in their own way. Larry Murphy (John Hemphill) and Cynthia Murphy (Claire Rankin) did a terrific job at playing parents that are struggling to communicate after the loss of their son. One of the moments I could not hold back the tears was when Larry Murphy (Hemphill) realized the impact the loss of his son made. He is finally allowed to break down his emotional walls and feel the loss he is experiencing. Cynthia Murphy (Claire Rankin) did a great job as a mother desperately searching for help for her son, then as a grieving mother trying to make sense out of the tragedy. She did this best in the opening number "Anybody Have a Map?" Another character that stood out in the opening number was Heidi Hansen (Jessica E Sherman). Sherman plays a single mother, working as a nurse's aide and going to school at night to become a paralegal, causing her to miss out on moments with her son. It is evident to the audience she feels guilt for all she misses but communicates this by constantly trying to find out about Evan's life and push him to get better. Sherman's most beautiful number was in "So Big/So Small."

Evan's "friends" were also wonderful in their roles. Jared Kleinman (Alessandro Costantini) was the comedic relief the audience needed. He was the typical high school boy with inappropriate jokes. Alana Beck (Ciara Alyse Harris) was the stereotypical overachiever people knew in high school, attempting to get the most service hours, the best grades, and the most extracurricular activities compared to her classmates. Harris's voice was incredible, especially in "Waving Through a Window." I appreciated how the overachiever who tries to please and impress everyone expressed how she felt alone, even with so many people around her. Lastly, the man that created the chaos, Connor Murphy (Nikhil Saboo) was perfect as the moody, loner kid.

Dear Evan Hansen is a wonderful and timely show with a beautiful message that you are seen, you are heard, "You Will Be Found." The musical will be at the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts presented by FSCJ Artist Series now through January 30th.