Dear Evan Hansen highlights youth mental health and anxiety

Courtney Fitzmaurice

As the house lights went down in Broadway’s Music Box Theatre, Evan Hansen (Michael Lee Brown) sat on his bed on the stage, writing a letter to himself, unaware that later he’d share his words with everyone.

Dear Evan Hansen (DEH) follows seventeen year old Evan who has social anxiety. When Evan writes a letter to himself that is later found with a student who took his own life, Conor Murphy (Alex Boniello), he fabricates a friendship between them and gets the family and the girl he had always wanted.

In 2017, DEH won the Tony award for Best Musical, along with six other accolades. Written by Steven Levenson and with a score by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman) DEH is still captivating audiences today.

In this performance, alternate Evan appeared rather than the regular Evan, Andrew Barth Feldman. However, the audience were not disappointed as Brown is very experienced in this role, having been the understudy for the original Evan, Ben Platt (The Politician).

Evan is both a vocally challenging and an emotionally challenging role and Brown’s interpretation was excellent. He conveyed Evan’s anxieties and earnestness in a way that endeared him to the audience. He’s undoubtedly a strong singer, and his Waving Through a Window, arguably the most famous track from the show, was great.

Zoe Murphy (Gabrielle Carrubba) is Conor’s sister and Evan’s love interest. Carrubba has a beautiful voice and she plays Zoe with a real delicateness. Her performance of Requiem, where Zoe talks about the difficult relationship she had with Conor, was amazing and you could tell she felt the emotion of the song, with her in tears by the bridge.

Perhaps the best performance  was that of Lisa Brescia (Wicked), who played Evan’s mother, Heidi. Even the non theatre lovers in the audience were impressed. So Big / So Small was a standout moment from Brescia. The character of Jared Kleinman (Jared Goldsmith) provides much needed comic relief. Goldsmith, who is new to Broadway, stole the scenes he was in.

The staging for the show is simple, yet effective. Essentially, there’s beds for Evan and Conor’s rooms, a couch and a dining table. There’s moving platforms on the stage floor that spin around to bring, for example, the Murphy family dining table scene to centre stage. Across the stage at times, there’s walls of social media pages, to illustrate texts between Evan and other characters and to show the spread of his story online.

You Will Be Found, sung by Evan and other cast members, is an uplifting ballad that has a positive message for the fans of the show, who are mainly young people. Evan sings, “Even when the dark comes crashin’ through / When you need a friend to carry you / And when you’re broken on the ground / You will be found.”

DEH discusses issues relevant to young people, such as loneliness, suicide and mental health, and leaves the audience with a true message that none of us are alone.

Courtney Fitzmaurice

Image credit: Matthew Murphy