by Lauren Means | photos courtesy Matthew Murphy
“I wish everything was different. I wish that I were a part of something.”Evan Hansen
At one time or another, we have all felt this. Some of us feel it more often or for a longer period of time. Others feel it all the time. One thing is for sure, Dear Evan Hansen brings those feelings to the surface.
TPAC’s Jackson Hall was packed for this opening-night event and it would be hard to find a dry eye in the crowd by the end of the show. It is not your typical stage production. The story itself is captivating and the songs pull on emotional heartstrings. It tells the story of Evan Hansen, a high school senior brought to life by Ben Levi Ross, and his gripping anxiety. Heidi [Jane Pfitsch], a single mom working full-time and going to school at night, tries to help and keep him engaged. She encourages visits with a therapist to try to help him work through is isolation and anxiety.
It is these visits with the therapist that set up Evan’s whirlwind entrance to the school year. As a therapeutic exercise, his therapist wants Evan to write letters to himself about why he is going to have a good day. These letters, however, lead to mass confusion when one ends up in the hands of Conner [Marrick Smith], a student who ultimately commits suicide.
“Dear Evan Hansen, Today is going to be an amazing day, and here’s why.”
What really made the story real to life was how people who didn’t know Conner managed to make his death about them, including Evan. We see this all the time now. On social media, everyone is quick to share stories and videos from people’s lives in order to feel more connected… important. We want to be apart of something. We want to be included. It is human nature.
It is this human nature that Hansen pulls from to draw the audience in and keep them engaged. No matter where you are in life or your journey thus far, you will find a relatable character in Hansen.
The passion from the cast is a driving factor in audience engagement. Ross is remarkable with his delivery. He has a quirky mix of Jim Parsons and Jesse Eisenberg that allows the character to be both relatable and appreciated. Ross also has an amazing range of vocals. I was left breathless with his renditions of “For Forever” and “Words Fail”.
All of the music was ovation worthy with “So Big/So Small” performed by Pfitsch and Maggie McKenna’s [Zoe] delivery of “Requiem” really hitting home for me. With her vocals, if this whole theater gig doesn’t pan out, McKenna definitely has a future here in Music City.
Hansen, a Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, was brought to stage by Steven Levenson from his book of the same title with score and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It will be here in Nashville September 10-15, 2019.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or suicidal thoughts please reach out to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).
For more information visit https://www.tpac.org/event/2019-09-10-to-2019-09-15-dear-evan-hansen/.
If you were not able to score tickets to this all but sold-out show, click here for information on a $25 ticket lottery going on for each performance.
For information on the organizations Dear Evan Hansen partners with, click here.