Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Award-winning Broadway musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ comes to Boston

Hit musical about adolescence that will tear at heartstrings
Photo from the Official Facebook Page

Ever since it hit the Broadway stage in 2016, “Dear Evan Hansen” has experienced a whirlwind of success. The stage musical follows teenager Evan Hansen, who has social anxiety. To cope with it, his therapist recommends he write himself positive letters everyday, but when one of his letters is found on a student, Connor Murphy, who died of suicide, Evan gets wrapped up in someone else’s tragedy. Evan, who has felt invisible up until now, invents himself as the secret best friend of Connor and launches a suicide awareness campaign surrounding his death, as well as also getting closer to Connor’s sister Zoe, who he develops a romantic interest in. The musical tackles difficult concepts like social anxiety, suicide, the grieving process, disconnected families, self-acceptance and how social media has influenced those topics.

The music and lyrics of the show, as well as the original premise came from the minds of composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, better known as Pasek & Paul, whose other works include musical “Dogfight” and films “La la Land” and “The Greatest Showman.” The two also collaborated with playwright Steven Levenson to write the book. When speaking of how they gained the idea for this original show, Pasek spoke of his own high school experience which inspired him, “There was a student who was sort of anonymous. He died of a drug overdose, and it was sort of unclear whether it was intentional or not. After he passed away the student body became very, very close to him. Everybody sort of claimed him as their best friend after he died… and began to talk about how amazing he was and how important he was in their lives.”

The show went on to be nominated for nine awards at the 71st Annual Tony Awards, and won in six of those categories, including original Broadway cast member Ben Platt for Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, Pasek & Paul for Best Original Score and Best Musical. The original Broadway cast would eventually all leave, but the show goes on, as new faces are brought on to make their mark on the characters, and the show travels to Toronto, London as well as across the nation in the National Tour.

The National Tour for “Dear Evan Hansen” launched on Sept. 28, 2018 to much excitement for fans who could not make it out to New York to watch the Broadway production.

The National Tour cast is led by actor Ben Levi Ross, who made his Broadway debut as Evan Hansen during his Broadway run, and is now reprising the role. Actress Maggie McKenna made her professional theatre debut in 2017 at Sydney’s Theatre Company’s show “Muriel’s Wedding the Musical,” and will be taking on the role of Zoe Murphy. Connor Murphy will be played by Marrick Smith, and Connor’s parents Cynthia Murphy and Larry Murphy will be played by Christine Noll and Aaron Lazar, respectively. In the musical, Evan develops a deep relationship with the Murphy parents, as both his parents are often absent in his life, the opposite of Cynthia and Larry who always try to be there for their children. Heidi Hansen, Evan’s mother is often absent due to her working multiple jobs to support the family after her divorce from his father. She is played by actress Jessica Phillips. Finally, Evan’s only two “friends,” Jared Kleinman and Alana Beck are played by Jared Goldsmith and Phoebe Koyabe.

The tour has already garnered positive reviews from the cities it has visited. The Los Angeles Times praises it as one of the best portrayals of adolescence struggle and emotionality on stage. Ross is commended for his portrayal of Evan’s pain from someone who attempts to pull himself out of isolation by being someone other than himself, to someone who accepts himself flaws and all. The whole cast performance is stunning, but of course it is Ross that carries the essence of the show. The Chicago Tribune credits director Michael Grief as well, who does not romanticize certain issues portrayed in the musical, getting right to the hard-hitting stuff that highlights the hardships of life. Jessica Phillips, who plays Heidi Hansen, is also praised on creating new depth to the character in her performance, compared to the Broadway show and which reviewer Chris Jones considers the standout of the performance.

The First National Tour is set to play in Boston at the Citizens Bank Opera House for three weeks this summer, from July 10 to August 4. Despite not being the Award-winning original Broadway cast, it is the show that is the real star, and the National Tour is full of its own star power that breathes new life and dimension into “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Ashley Tsang can be reached at [email protected].

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