BWW Review: DEAR EVAN HANSEN at Kansas City Music Hall
"Dear Evan Hansen" was the winner of six 2017 Tony awards including Best Musical and Best Performance by an actor. The first national tour of "Dear Evan Hansen" has set up shop at the Kansas City Music Hall as part of the Kansas City Broadway Series for a one week run.
Evan Hansen (Stephen Anthony Christopher) is that high school senior many of us worried about becoming. He is the shy product of a single parent household. The Hansens are not poverty stricken, but they are financially challenged. Mom Heidi Hansen (Jessica E. Sherman) breaks her butt to provide and to finish the paralegal college program she believes will lead to a more financially stable lifestyle.
Like many 21st century teenagers, Evan lives an isolated existence of self-doubt exacerbated by the online world. High school senior year is starting. Evan feels like he has no friends and might even disappear. He wears a cast on his left arm. During the summer, he has fallen out of a tree and broken it.
Mom Heidi is concerned about Evan. She has arranged for him to see a therapist. The doctor has assigned Evan a project. He is to write to himself a positive letter every day (Dear Evan Hansen) in hopes his positive plan will make him feel happier with life.
Mom pushes Evan to complete the assignment. He grumpily agrees to write the first letter and produce it for his therapist. It is not the beam of sunlight Mom had hoped. The letter is dark and mentions a schoolboy crush Evan harbors for Zoe Murphy (Stephanie La Rochelle), a junior girl from a much more well off family. The letter is stolen by Zoe's brother Connor (David Jeffery), a bully and a mentally unbalanced young man. Connor somehow construes the letter to be offensive to him for the reference to his sister and stuffs it into his pocket.
Several days pass. Evan is called to the principal's office. There he finds Connor's parents. Connor has killed himself. They are crushed. Dad Larry (John Hemphill) and Mom Cynthia (Claire Rankin) have discovered the dark, stolen "Dear Evan Hansen" letter in Connor's pocket. They assume that it is Connor's suicide note. They want to understand why Connor would write his last words to this world to Evan someone they have never met.
Evan sympathizes with the Murphys. Rather than correct the record, Evan invents a friendship with the deceased Connor in an effort to help them through this dark time. It is a white lie, but one which high school and the online world spins out of control and takes on a life of its own. Evan's life changes dramatically in ways he could not imagine (both good and bad) all driven by the white lie.
Evan's family friend computer nerd Jared (Alessandro Costantini) and social climbing Alana (Ciara Alyse Harris) join forces with Evan to perpetrate the lie and to keep Connor's memory alive. The combination of the lie and social media combine to terrible effect.
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.
"Dear Evan Hansen" continues through Sunday at the Kansas City Music Hall. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or by telephone at 816-421-7500.
Photos courtesy of Kansas City Broadway Series.