Mental health has been a topic for which people now have more candor. This progress has given everyone a chance to be heard and is a warm embrace for those struggling. “Dear Evan Hansen” is a musical conceived from such openness and is aimed at making people aware of the importance of their mental health. This award-winning musical contains memorable songs, and telling a story tugs your heartstrings, reminding you of your unconditional worth. The touring cast of the musical will be coming to the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. Prepare tissues because you will shed tears.
“A breathtaking knockout of a musical.” — The New York Times
“One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history.” — The Washington Post
Dear Evan Hansen,” or in short, “DEH,” is a work of joint creativity with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s music and lyrics, a book by Steven Levenson, and the direction of Michael Greiff. Levenson, who had never written a musical before, was approached by Pasek and Paul in 2011 to write about people’s “obsession with personalizing tragedy,” inspired by Pasek’s experience in high school. For the next five years, they worked together to create the story of “DEH.”
The story revolves around Evan Hansen, a nerdy high schooler with social anxiety. He has difficulty belonging to a world that values forming connections and relationships. This was changed after a tragic incident in which he was accidentally involved gave him a chance to belong. This led him to a downward spiral of deception. But how much does it take for him to realize that gratifying his need for validation, the way he is doing it, is outright wrong and taking advantage of others? As much as the musical gives many positive messages about mental health, it is also a cautionary tale.
Unexpectedly, it became a critical and commercial hit in 2015 after its premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. This led to its transfer off-Broadway to the Second Stage Theater in 2016, staying there for seven months.
As the musical received excellent traction, it transferred to Broadway in November 2016 at the Music Box Theatre. The musical indeed stepped out into the Sun on Broadway, with critics praising it and selling out tickets for each performance. Along with Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen helped popularize Broadway to young people.
“Leaving a new musical with a great song or two running through your head is a rare but exciting thing. Leaving with about 10 great songs running through your head is pretty much unheard of. But that’s the power of Dear Evan Hansen…” — Entertainment Weekly
“Genuinely bold, daring and confrontational. Dear Evan Hansen adds to New York’s impressive musical slate.” — The Stage
The musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning six, including “Best Musical,” “Best Book,” “Best Score,” “Best Actor” for Ben Platt, and “Best Featured Actress” for Rachel Bay Jones. Benn Platt’s performance as Evan Hansen was a highlight of the Broadway production. Because of his remarkable performance, he reprised the role in its movie adaptation in 2021.
Excerpt From ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ review By Alice Saville, TimeOut
It’s easy to see why ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has won so many fans since it first premiered in 2015: it mixes agonising tension with surgingly catchy songs by songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who’ve also worked on movies ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’. The standout numbers are emotive rock ballads like ‘You Will be Found’, the kind of thing you’d wave your lighter along to if the West End’s theatres weren’t imperilled enough already. But the score’s also stuffed with inspirations from emo to bluegrass, and Evan’s mum gets a gravelly howl of frustration that could be straight out of Alanis Morissette’s back catalogue.
The intense emotionalism of the score is characteristic of a musical where everything’s dialled up to 11. Evan Hansen isn’t just your archetypal teen movie loser; he’s as fragile as a peeled egg, bouncing from humiliation to humiliation in a high school that’s like a machine designed to slice him up.
The whole musical seems to be building to an explosion that’s deferred, and deferred, then weakly fizzles out like a school chemistry project. But then, this story’s biggest conflicts are internal, rather than external. It looks so simple but there’s something incredibly accomplished about the way that ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ fleshes out its lovable protagonist’s small world of home, school and laptop – then creates a trap that feeds him and poisons him all at once.
The Broadway production is slated to close in September this year. However, the touring production continues.
From January 24 to February 19, 2023, the musical will be at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, California. The cast includes Stephen Christopher Anthony as Evan Hansen, Stephanie La Rochelle as Zoe Murphy, Jessica E. Sherman as Heidi Hansen, Kelsey Venter as Cynthia Murphy, Nikhil Saboo as Connor Murphy, John Hemphill as Larry Murphy, Alessandro Costantini as Jared Kleinman, Ciara Alyse Harris as Alana Beck, and Sam Primack as Evan Hansen at specific performances. Tickets are now available for reservations. Trigger warning for those who want to see it, the show tackles depression and suicide.