- Xi Ye
Review - Dear Evan Hansen
Updated: Feb 6
Noel Coward Theatre
Musical Director (UK)
Evan Hansen is unable to connect with those around him and continues to struggle to find a sense of purpose. After the death of one of Evan’s classmates, he fabricates a letter and a lie that will grant him the chance to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to finally fit in.
Dear Evan Hansen provides a grounded narrative on the topic of loneliness and anxiety, and the length one would go to in order to fit it. I found myself at the edge of seat as Evan's lies spiralled out of control and anxiously awaited the aftermath as the events unfolded.
The internal dialogues between Evan and Connor throughout the show were thoughtfully crafted and I applaud the creative team for using that to reveal the cause behind Evan’s broken arm. Importantly, the truth was never revealed to the other characters, a realistic representation of those with self-harming and suicidal thoughts.
I had the pleasure of seeing Dear Evan Hansen twice in the space of a month and managed to catch Sam Tutty and Marcus Harman (alternate)’s performances. Both actors' portrayals of Evan were on point, and showcased a clear persona throughout. In particular, I was impressed by the consistency of the Evan's nervous tics throughout.
There are quite a few rubato songs in the show, giving actors some degree of freedom to the tempo and showcase their individuality. The songs in this show are challenging and the actors playing Evan are required to hit a fairly big range of notes (looking at you, "For Forever"). Despite this, both Sam and Marcus played the role exceptionally well and were no less than impressive.
Jared, played by Jack Laxton and Hadyn Cox (understudy), first appeared to be a simple but comedic character that showed hints of underlying motive that drove him to cooperate with Evan. This was briefly touched upon in a very short, but nonetheless impactful exchange in Act 2. However, this was left completely unresolved and a touch more character development would be appreciated. Lucy Anderson, who played Zoe Murphy, portrayed her character well and her emotional performance in "Requiem" was one of the highlights of Act 1. While the show spent a fair amount of time on Evan's attraction toward Zoe, this part of the plot remained superficial and felt insignificant in the bigger picture.
The show tried to convey a difficult message that no one should feel forgotten and the lengths one could go to in order to obtain a sense of belonging, using the death of Connor as the catalyst to achieve this. Although this aim was largely fulfilled, I can't help but feel that the real Connor was already forgotten within the first 20 minutes of the show. All the versions of "Connor" we saw from then on were conjured images of him to advance the other characters' lies and needs, but none of them were the real Connor.
The show has no shortage of catchy show tunes, "Waving through a window", "You will be Found" and "Good for you" were especially memorable. Special shoutout to Peter Nigrini's projection design, which was visually impactful and carried the story as much as the music did. If you intend to see the show, do yourself a favour and skip the stalls. A lot of the magic lie in the projections toward the back and floor of the stage, which are much harder to see clearly from the stalls. The story is relatable, grounded, and serves as a reminder that everybody can be slightly awkward in some way, and that it is ok not to be ok all the time.