Socially anxious, snarky, blabber mouthy, people-pleasing, crush-suffering—teenager. Oh, dear, dear.
Until October 20, Dear Evan Hansen tap, tap, taps on Kansas City’s Music Hall stage. Starring Stephen Christopher Anthony in the title role, Hansen opens at the start of a new school year and in quick order the story fills with angsty teens and the parents that don’t know quite what to do with them.
Evan Hansen has fallen from a tree and wears a cast as evidence. He dreads seeing Zoe Murphy (Stephanie La Rochelle), the object of his affection and subsequent reason for sweaty palms. Her brother Connor (u/s David Jeffrey) doesn’t just have problems, he is problems. Because of it, not unlike Evan, he’s completely friendless.
In a moment of surprise, Connor connects with Evan and signs his cast, a show of friendship they each wish they had. And just as quickly, a misunderstanding swipes a gash through an otherwise tender moment leading to the tragedy that turns Connor into the catalyst for Evan’s journey within.
Oh, Connor. What a mother won’t believe, what a little sister won’t give in to, what a classmate won’t fabricate.
Dear Evan Hansen is a multi-Tony-award-winning Broadway musical that was clearly created to drain you of all your tears. Don’t expect to make it through the first song with dry cheeks. You might, but don’t expect it.
With the lilting of that popular song Waving through a Window, Stephen Christopher Anthony proves to have an angelic voice. It’s both perfect music and exciting drama. Rich and controlled, Anthony colors the melody handsomely without getting in its way.
Through musical tunes bent by a Tennessee twang, Hansen unfolds with humor about how we use fantasy to endure the insufferable weight of our desperate need (and occasional inability) to connect. Here the blinding fantasy kinks with moral ambiguity and makes this shy, blathering hero nearly unrecognizable. Even to himself.
This is a brilliant tale of mistaken identity. It’s a tense look at parenting versus providing, the bastardization of hope and healing and the dangers of emotional chameleon-ism.
The set is minimalist with the orchestra pit raised over the action. Partial photos, geometric shapes, voiceover, and instant message “pings” reveal the parameters of young lives conditioned by digital and social media.
There is no greater helplessness than not knowing your child or how to reach them, except the powerlessness of not knowing yourself. This musical is as much an ode to surviving parenthood as it is to teen grit. Three words: bring your hankies.
Dear Evan Hansen is a gentle story about how a simple fib spreads like brushfire. Hansen is a potent reminder and warning that we are the flame.
Dear Evan Hansen plays now through Sunday, October 20, at the Music Hall.
Music and Lyrics
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Stephen Christopher Anthony, Stephanie La Rochelle, Jessica Sherman, Claire Rankin, David Jeffrey (u/s), John Hemphill, Alessandro Costantini, Ciara Alyse Harris and Sam Primack