Monday, May 2, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Dear Evan Hansen


Dear Evan Hansen
Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Book by Steven Levenson
Direction by Michael Greif
Second Stage Theatre
-- and updated May 31 -- Show will open on Broadway next season

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The small bed on the platform center stage could belong to anyone of us – and depending on just how much we want to fit in and how much we crave the love of a family-- we just as easily could find ourselves making a similar bed and being forced to lie in it.

The human story of Dear Evan Hansen (book by Steven Levenson) music by Benj Paske and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story; Dogfight) has struck such a chord with audiences Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater, where the show has received numerous award nominations and already has won the Obie for Best Musical, that it will transfer to Broadway next winter.  Besides the endearing story and moving score, the show’s charm can be credited to consummate direction by Michael Greif (Next to Normal) and its star, young Ben Platt.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot here, as there are spoilers. But Platt is Evan Hansen, a teen boy who doesn't feel he belongs at school, or at home, where his mom, Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones), tries her best working extra shifts as a nurse to make ends meet as a single parent. She doesn't notice right away that her son has become very involved with the Murphys (John Dossett, Jennifer Laura Thompson and Laura Dreyfus), the family of one of Evan's schoolmates, Conner (Mike Faist), who recently committed suicide. She comes to find out that Evan and Connor were very close-- or were they?

What Are the Highlights?
An excellent play, with moving, deep performances. Platt in particular, is perfect as the bumbling, uncertain, troubled teen. Pasek and Paul offer a pleasing score with insightful lyrics. One number sung beautifully by Thompson had me sitting on the edge of my seat to take in every heartfelt lyric and there wan't a dry eye in the house at the end.

Video (designed by Peter Nigrini) projected on David Korins' set enhances the experience. 

What Are the Lowlights?
I had listed the end of the run, but the good news is that  the show will return for a Broadway engagement. Here's one show I won't mind seeing again.

More Information:
Dear Evan Hansen had its world premiere at Arena Stage, Washington, DC, this past summer. 

Dear Evan Hansen played at Second Stage Theatre, NYC, through May 29. For information about the Broadway transfer, visit dearevanhansen.com.

Additional credits:
Choreography by Danny MeffordCostume Design by Emily Rebholz, Hair Design by Josh Marquette, Makeup design by Milagros Medina-Cerdeira, Lighting Design by Japhy Weideman, Sound Design by Nevin SteinbergMusic Direction by s Ben Cohn, Musical Supervision and Orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, Vocal Arrangements by Justin Paul, Dance Music arrangements by David Chase.

Additional cast:
Kristolyn Lloyd,  Will Roland

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Suicide
-- Sexual dialogue
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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