“IS ANYBODY WAVING BACK AT ME” THE POWER OF TRUTH AND LIES ‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’ RETURNS TO SF
THE MOVING ‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’ IS A MODERN REFLECTION OF MENTAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL ANXIETY
Review by Vince Mediaa
“All we see is sky for forever” is one of the themes from the “letters” Evan writes as he deals with his mental health in DEAR EVAN HANSEN. The Tony honored musical returned to San Francisco after opening its orignal tour at The Curran back in 2018. It will steal your emotions and the songs will not stop ringing in your ears. The superb 2022 National tour cast headed by the accomplished Anthony Norman is now on stage at Broadway SF Orpheum stage only through February 19th. A brilliant book by Steven Levenson and Oscar winning songwriters/lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land). The winner of six Tony Awards, including 2017’s Best Musical.
The topic of teen suicide is surely not mainstream musical box office, but compared to NEXT TO NORMAL, FUN HOME and SPRING AWAKENING this fast-paced, painful, Generation Z cyber era, hits your heart. EVAN HANSEN brings the tragic topic home with some amazing pop songs and multimedia background that sweeps you away and keeps the dark topic engaging. The cast is led by Anthony Norman (Jeff Cornelius plays Evan at Matinees) as the awkward teen Hansen. The engaging Gillian Jackson as Zoe, Evans' crush they both sing “Requiem” and show off their amazing voices. Norman first sings the banner song “Waving Through A Window” that opens his story in the show.
Evan is recovering from a nervous breakdown as he sings the amazing show stopper “For Forever”. His mental diagnosis is never discussed but he’s taking medication. Following the advice of his therapist, and his single mother, Heidi, played by the polished Colleen Sexton, asks him to write a letter of encouragement to himself. The letter he writes is a cry for help and describes his loneliness.
Zoe’s brother Connor played by the gruffie, August Emerson, is also a misfit and loner who is in Evan’s senior class. Connor discovers the letter and bullies Evan, who deep down he admires. Connor becomes the true angst of this story as Evan learns from Connor and Zoe’s parents that his distant friend has killed himself. The note Evan wrote is found on his body, and the dead boys parents misinterpret it as a sign of Connor and Evans’s secret friendship. The wisecracking Jared Kleinman is played with the perfect comic timing by Pablo David Laucerica. Jared is the reluctant, f-bomb filled sidekick life advisor for Evan. “Evan, do you wear that cast on your arm from all the jerking off you do?” Norman, Lauceria and Emerson sing the wonderful anthem “Sincerely, Me”. The ghost of Connor sings “Dear Evan Hansen I should tell you I think of you each night, I rub my nipples and start moaning with delight”.
The songs are packed with non-stop hits full of dialogue, and pop melodies that become the highlight of this musical. The compact on stage band, designed into the multimedia screens on stage, are on top the blue sky and themes of rich blue tones designed by David Korins. The band is clean and fits the pop drama of the music under the direction of Alex Lacoire. Normans’ commanding voice carries this show and all his numbers are show stoppers. Normans’ nerdy, nervous layered, perfect performance as Evan is excellent.
Evan is on stage over 90% of the time; it is a demanding role so there is an alternate Evan, Jeff Cornelius who performs Wed, and Sat matinees. Broadway vet Lili Thomas plays Cynthia, Connor’s mom and sings “Disappear” as Connor yearns not to be forgotten and the “Connor Project” begins. Evan sings "When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around, do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?" If a person gains comfort from sharing a story that is based on lies, does it really make the pain easier. Evan's uplifting message following the suicide "no one deserves to fade away”. Today's experience of social media proves that no one will fade away; all those texts, selfies and tweets live in a cloud or server until the earth floods or slips away. Evan finds with Zoe a family bond that he lacks at his home. He develops a strong bond with Connor's dad, Larry, played by the dapper John Hemphill. Evan and Larry sing “To Break a Glove” as they play catch and Evan warms up to a real father he missed out on.
Evan’s lies and stories become viral damage to a controlling student, Alana, played by the awesome Micaela Lamas. Alana starts an online website dedicated to Connor’s memory. Evan struggles through a memorial video that goes world wide on the net and his lies have become inspirational for other teens. Directed by the Tony winner, Michael Greif, his staging is compelling and the show has made an easy transition in its tour mode. But I would have loved to see this show in a smaller venue, as it moves to regional theatre in the years to come. The company number “You Will Be Found” ends the first act and adds the stunning arch to the story. Writer Steven Levenson‘s compelling book is packed with changing twists just like any teenager brings home. This is the best teenage dialogue I have seen in a musical that cast teens to tell the story, it's awkward and real. It would be amazing to make this musical accessible to a youth audience as the cost of tickets soares there were very few teens in the opening night audience. The producers do offer a 25.00 seat that I will mention below.
The high tech sets by David Korins include the sensitive blue theme lighting by Japhy Weideman compliment themselves. The brilliant blue glow backdrop that ends the two and half hour musical is overwhelming and moving. The constant feed of social media text and imagery as well as the complex dazzling graphic projections were designed by Peter Nigrini. The constant moving stage setting is highlighted with hanging, scrolling projection screens that communicate the interior and exterior wifi babble of a connected social universe. It’s both sleek and mildly mind numbing. The simple polo shirts and millennial costumes designed by Emily Rebholz fit the blue theme and highlight Evan’s real arm cast he wears for each performance. It is sawed off at intermission as Even sings the love inspired “Only Us” with his girlfriend Zoe.
EVAN HANSEN is a generation lost in cyber angst and sometimes a soap opera. Yet it is a deeply important show that will bring you to tears. The teens grapple with an information overload, mental health, out-of-control, pop density, phenomenon, that raises the question: do we die alone? This touring production of DEAR EVAN HANSEM is compelling, my attention never once was distracted and I only wanted more after the cast “Finale”. This is a beautiful, painful and deeply human show, the opening night crowd were on their feet even before cast was on stage for the welcomed bows. “You Will Be Found” do your best to catch DEAR EVAN HANSEN.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN
Book by Steven Levenson
composers Benj Pasek & Justin Paul,
Directed by Michael Greif
Music Direction Alex Lacamoire
Must Close February 19th
Hyde and Market St. San Francisco Ca
Two hours and 30 min and one intermission
Rush Seats available day of show two hours before each performance
25.00 lottery seats at Luckyseats.com/
For more information on the tour, visit dearevanhansen.com/tour/.
photos by EVAN ZIMMERMAN FOR MURPHYMADE
25.00 tickets DIGITAL LOTTERY
The National Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN hosts a digital ticket lottery, powered by Lucky Seat, offering fans the chance to purchase a limited number of $25 tickets available for each performance. For weekday performances, entries must be received by 7:30am PT the day before the performance. For Saturday and Sunday, entries must be received by 7:30am PT on the Friday before. Drawings will begin at 11:00am PT and will continue throughout the day as needed. Winners will have a limited window to purchase and claim their tickets. Limited to 2 tickets per winner.