Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: No requiem for DEAR EVAN HANSEN

pixeltracker

The National tour of Dear Evan Hansen stops in OKC now through January 16th.

BWW Review: No requiem for DEAR EVAN HANSEN
Stephen Christopher Anthony as 'Evan Hansen' and the North American touring company of DEAR EVAN HANSEN. Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2019

The national tour of 2017 Best Musical Tony Award Winner Dear Evan Hansen makes its stop at the Civic Center now through January 16th. The show was a hit on Broadway because of the well-known names who created it. Steven Levenson (Fosse/Verdon) wrote the book, lyrics and music are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman), and the original Broadway cast starred Ben Platt (The Politician, Pitch Perfect) and Laura Dreyfuss (The Politician). David Korins (Hamilton, Beetlejuice) designed the set and Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton, In the Heights) served as Orchestrator. However, money, talent, and fabulous set designs mean little to nothing without a solid plot to fall back on.

Mental health issues are a central theme to the story; teenaged Evan has been assigned by a psychiatrist to write letters of positive affirmation to himself. He's also been prescribed medication that isn't identified until Act II, but turns out to be anxiety medicine. There's no backstory given as to why Evan is going through this difficult time, but it's assumed that his social status at school, as well as persistent bullying from a classmate, are major factors.

Another main plot-line is teen suicide. Another is classism and what it means to be a single, working-class parent. Another still is changing relationships between parents and teens, and how best to navigate that tricky period of life. What's missing is any real commentary on any of the topics that are broached throughout the show. They're not so much "tackled" as they are mentioned vaguely in passing, leaving audiences grasping for a deeper meaning.

The surface-level dialogue is problematic only because it's such an otherwise serious show. Sure, laughter is the best medicine, but it's insensitive to joke to a depressed teenager about a classmate who committed suicide. What results from the passive, high-level commentary is more complaint than solution, more cardboard and flat than heartfelt or moving.

The show does have redeeming qualities. Privilege has its privileges, after all. The set is beautiful and intricate, bringing the audience into a virtual world, complete with ever present text and notification tones. The music stands alone and would probably work as a concept album, and it's arguably some of Pasek and Paul's best work.

The cast is also quite redeemable. The principal players do a great job of recreating the original Broadway cast. Sam Primack is brilliant as Evan Hansen. He channels the nervous energy that Ben Platt made famous in the role (and every role he ever plays), and makes it his own. Primack has stunning moments on stage in solo numbers and touches hearts with the anthem "Waving Through a Window". Alessandro Costantini is loveably obnoxious as Evan's best friend Jared. Ciara Alyse Harris is bubbly as Alana. Harris finds the balance between happy-go-lucky and struggling with mental health, much like everyone in the school is doing.

Nikhil Saboo is menacing and villainous as Connor Murphy. Saboo is a strong performer, forceful and hurtful as the school bully. Clearly something is troubling Connor, and he thinks he has no way out. This character is the turning point, and it's a shame that his death happens so early in Act I.

Stephanie La Rochelle breaks hearts as Zoe Murphy. She steals the show with "Requiem" and "Only Us" and is brilliantly talented as a vocalist. La Rochelle portrays a broken girl; she's worried and grieving. Zoe is one of the most well-rounded characters in the show, and that's in no small part due to La Rochelle's performance. She makes Zoe heartfelt and complex.

Claire Rankin and John Hemphill portray Connor's parents Cynthia and Larry. They're sympathetic as the grieving parents. Evan's mother Heidi is lovingly portrayed by Jessica E. Sherman.

The small ensemble cast pulls the weight of the world along on their shoulders throughout the show, working with a problematic plot for two and a half hours. This is the heart of the issue with Dear Evan Hansen. It has all the opportunity in the world to create something beautiful, and falls terribly short. It beat out Come from Away for best musical at The Tony Awards, and after seeing both tours at the Civic Center, I can confidently say that Tony win was nothing short of highway robbery.

The bullying and teen suicide tropes are tired, and this show offers no new take. The music and performance quality are enjoyable, and if you don't think about it too hard, you'll probably enjoy it. Or, you could just go home and watch Come From Away instead. That's a Broadway show that lives up to its hype, and it's a shame it was overshadowed and upstaged by the popular kid Evan Hansen.

The National Tour of Dear Evan Hansen runs until January 16th, 2022 at the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Center, 201 N Walker Ave, OKC 73102. Tickets are available but going fast at okcbroadway.com.


Join Team BroadwayWorld

Are you an avid theatre goer in Oklahoma? We're looking for people like you to share your thoughts and insights with our readers. Team BroadwayWorld members get access to shows to review, conduct interviews with artists, and the opportunity to meet and network with fellow theatre lovers and arts workers.

Interested? Learn more here.



Join Team BroadwayWorld

Are you an avid theatre goer in Oklahoma? We're looking for people like you to share your thoughts and insights with our readers. Team BroadwayWorld members get access to shows to review, conduct interviews with artists, and the opportunity to meet and network with fellow theatre lovers and arts workers.

Interested? Learn more here.



Related Articles View More Oklahoma Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Adrienne Proctor