On Saturday I went with my sister and her boyfriend to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto to see the musical Dear Evan Hansen. I first heard about the musical two years ago when it made a buzz at the 2017 Tony Awards winning Best Musical, Best Original Score and a number of other awards. It follows seventeen-year-old Evan Hansen who writes a letter to himself in order to help cope with his anxiety that ends up in the hands of another classmate, Connor Murphy, who dies by suicide. Evan’s letter is then thought to be Connor’s and Evan creates an elaborate lie that he and Connor were best friends that involves Connor’s family and later the entire school. Evan than goes from being invisible to being seen by everyone, but is it worth it with all the lies he’s had to tell to get there?
I’d heard a few of the songs before going to see the musical, particularly “Waving Through a Window” and “For Forever” which were both performed at the Tony Awards in the shows winning year. My friend also has a love for the song “Sincerely, Me” which is easily my favourite song in the musical. What can I say? I like the funny songs!
For a number of reasons Dear Evan Hansen is different from a lot of musicals that I’m used to. For one there’s no overture and for another it has an incredibly small cast, there’s no ensemble for the show. I’ve never seen a musical without an ensemble of some sort so it was amazing to see and hear the small cast provide such amazing sound and harmonies for the shows big numbers. Another strange thing was how few songs their actually were in the musical. With intermission Dear Evan Hansen ran two and a half hours which is an average run time for a musical, but there were only fourteen songs in the show. Normally musicals will have between 20-25 songs (Les Miserables has about forty, but that’s Les Mis for you) so Dear Evan Hansen’s fourteen makes it seem almost more like a regular band album than a musical, but it doesn’t make any of the songs less enjoyable.
The set was fairly minimal with a couch and bed brought in for certain scenes to differentiate different houses, but it also implented screens that were constantly showing pieces of Evan’s letters and various social media feeds and I loved how scenes with characters speaking to each other on social media were shown. The stage is largely pretty dark, but it leaves the last scene in the musical all the more breathtaking because of this.
The cast was also absolutely phenomenal. I’ve been lucky enough to see Robert Markus, who plays Evan Hansen, in two productions (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and was so happy when it was announced he’d be playing the lead role. He is such a talented actor and singer, much different from how Ben Platt portrayed the character on Broadway but just as talented and unforgettable. Stephanie La Rochelle played Zoey Murphy and sung Requiem absolutely beautifully and I was happy to see her on stage after rooting for her years ago in the Over the Rainbow competition that CBC aired. Sean Patrick Dolan playing Connor Murphy was also unforgettable making Connor a memorable mystery that I wish we got to see more of on stage.
Overall, Dear Evan Hansen is a show that shouldn’t be missed! With its unforgettable songs and touching message, it becomes a musical for the modern age that millennials and younger will definitely relate to.