BWW Review: DEAR EVAN HANSEN at The Kentucky Center For Performing Arts
Dear Evan Hansen is the oh so rare example of a truly original musical. In a world where musicals based on movies are becoming the rule and not the exception, it's refreshing and almost unheard of for a completely original musical to succeed as it has. The show had a long gestation period that included workshops and pre-Broadway tryouts, but when it finally made it to Broadway in late 2016, the buzz surrounding it made it a hit before it even opened. It would go on to win a slew of awards including Best Musical at that year's Tonys, and now as the tour is entering it's second year on the road, Louisville is finally getting a taste of this runaway hit with a week long run at the Kentucky Center.
The show focuses on Evan Hansen, a socially awkward teenager who, despite all his best efforts, doesn't fit in, and has a hard time navigating the world around him. His mother Heidi, while loving, is absent most of the time leaving him to fend for himself. When Evan starts his senior year, tragedy strikes and he finds himself wrapped up in an irreversible lie and in the center of a viral movement.
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.
The rest of the cast is top notch as well. With a mix of original tour members now in principle roles and transplants from the recently closed Toronto production, this mash-up of cast members is uniformly excellent. The biggest stand out for me is Jessica E. Sherman as Evan's mother Heidi. She brings so much love and gentleness to the role, but in the more intense moments she creates palpable tension and gives the character a rough edge that is truly amazing to watch. I would love to talk about other cast members as well, but it seems almost impossible to talk about their performances without giving spoilers. This is the kind show you should experience first hand, so just know that Stephanie La Rochelle, Claire Rankin, Noah Kiserman, John Hemphill, Alessandro Constanrini, and Ciara Alyse Harris all contribute wholeheartedly to what makes this show so very special.
The set pieces are minimal, however the use of screens and projections make this show a feast for the eyes. The show isn't for everyone, but I do feel it's important to see and will resonate with teenagers and young adults the most, as it examines the fact that we live in a time where we know so much about each other because of technology, but for some reason that's isolating and makes us feel even more alone. The show is only in town for a short time, and I recommend grabbing one of the few remaining tickets left. Trust me, this is not a show you want to let pass you by.
Dear Evan Hansen
Now - October 6th
Whitney Hall in The Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202