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‘Dear Evan Hansen’: A Work of Pure Genius

Roar writer Mia Williams reviews musical production “Dear Evan Hansen”.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a work of pure genius and a profound musical production that will touch the lives of every audience member in the theatre. Starring 22-year-old Sam Tutty as the lead Evan Hansen, it tells the story of the excruciatingly anxious teenage boy, whose unintentional lie spirals out of control leading to his ever-longing popularity within high school. His conscience, however, cannot deal with the guilt and betrayal of his lie, and his new-found acceptance all comes crashing down. 

It truly is no surprise to anyone that “Dear Evan Hansen” has won six Tony Awards, the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album and an Olivier Award for Best Musical. It is a deeply moving and profound piece of work. The songs within the musical, written by songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who have also worked on the movies “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman”, capture and spark an entire range of different emotions. Tear-jerking ballads such as “You Will be Found” connect with the audience on a completely different scale, reminding each one that they are never alone, along with up-beat and whimsical songs such as “Sincerely Me” which would have the whole theatre up and dancing if such was permitted. 

Evan Hansen is not your stereo-typical teenage boy in high school; he is an anxious, kind-hearted soul whose one aim is to please the people around him and be accepted. After concerns about his well-being, Evan’s mother, Heidi (Rebecca Mckinnis), takes him to see a therapist who asks him to write letters to himself everyday. The letters would start “Dear Evan Hansen, this is going to be a good day and here’s why…” 

One day he writes a letter to himself that isn’t so uplifting, which ends up in the hands of the complicated and angry Connor Murphy (Doug Colling), who also suffers depression and anxiety, however portrayed in a differently from Evan. When Connor tragically commits suicide, the letter is found with Connor and is presumed to be his suicide note that is addressed to Evan. When approached by Connor’s grieving parents, Evan cannot bring himself to tell the truth about the letter, and keeps up the pretence that he and Connor were best friends. Throughout the story, Evan becomes overbearingly close with the Murphy family, he starts a relationship with Connor’s sister Zoe (Lucy Anderson) and starts an online campaign in Connor’s memory against loneliness. 

Where this kind of painful lie would often be perceived as an evil and cruel thing to do, the anxious mannerisms of Sam Tutty and his portrayal of Evan as just a purely naïve boy who longs for acceptance, the audience’s love for Evan grows, and empathises with his mental health struggles. The story is so cleverly written and told, Connor Murphy is no longer remembered as the angry, frustrated and sometimes quite violent school bully that he was, Evan’s lie comforts his family, and Connor becomes remembered as a dear friend and loving son. 

As the lie grows in complexity, so does Evan’s confidence, he was now looked upon by his school as the only person who was there for Connor, a kind and genuine boy, rather than the lonely and nerdy character he once was. It gave him an opportunity to reinvent himself, belong to a generous and warm family he never had at home, and meet a girl who wanted him for him, and only him. The lie he unintentionally told at the beginning of the story benefited everyone involved. It begs the question, if a lie is helping to save others and brings comfort to those grieving, does the truth really matter at all? 

When the burdening truth finally comes out and Evan’s act is broken down, it isn’t the explosive or conflicting ending that the audience anticipate. It seems as though the biggest conflicts within this story are the ones struggled internally, and that is the most powerful message a musical can portray. 

The thought-provoking and heartbreaking storyline, the incredibly talented cast and their attention to detail with their characters, the intensive yet sensitive song choice, are all a part of what makes this musical so overwhelmingly exceptional, and one that leaves the audience only wanting to go back and watch it a thousand times more. 

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