I think the biggest theatrical surprise I've had in years came to me this past Sunday when I saw Dear Evan Hansen. You see, I had seen the show once before, off-Broadway at Second Stage, and I hated it. What a difference a few tweaks and uniformly better performances from a (mostly) different cast can make. I understand now the obsession people have with this show, from teens directly relating to the main character, to parents understanding/dreading the realities of child-rearing in the 21st century, to adults like me, who can remember feeling helpless in high school and having enough distance to understand the really bad things social media can do to relationships. I still have some qualms about the too pat ending and the overly optimistic lack of consequences. And I still think that the music (not the fantastic lyrics) of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul has a generic, monotonous feel to it more times than not. But after what I witnessed the other day, those qualms are more than made for by the passionate performances of the current company.
|Dear Evan Hansen
I don't envy Samantha Williams and Roman Banks who play very unlikable characters. It must be difficult to be so on the nose in portraying exactly what is wrong with many teenagers today. One, a jerk who plays at being a friend, then has the gall to call out others for not having his back; the other, an outrageous opportunist, in it for the "likes" and the website traffic, and, who is so self-involved that she really believes she has altruistic ideals. What is frightening is that they represent an increasingly pervasive attitude in today's culture. I mean this as a sincere compliment when I say that I hated them both by the time it was over - that's how excellent both are.
|Andrew Barth Feldman, Michael Park.
Jennifer Laura Thompson, Mallory Bechtel
|Andrew Barth Feldman and Lisa Brescia
|Alex Boniello and Andrew Barth Feldman
Boy, am I thankful I gave this wonderful show a second chance.
📸: J. Kyler, M. Murphy