5 things to know about ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

5 things to know about ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Paul Guggenheimer
Ben Levi Ross and the national touring company cast of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Mark Twain was credited 100 years ago with saying, “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.”

And if that was true 100 years ago, imagine how fast a lie can travel in the internet age of today.

That’s the dilemma at the heart of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the hit Broadway show and winner of six Tony Awards that opened a week long run at Heinz Hall on Tuesday night, part of the first national tour of the hugely popular musical.

The story focuses on Evan Hansen, a troubled teenager with social anxiety disorder who goes along with a lie to in part to impress a girl. The lie blows up on social media, but it also fixes every problem in Evan’s life, including getting the girl of his dreams.

Despite what seems like a cruel deception and heavy themes such as teenage suicide and the psychological drama of being a high schooler, we can’t help but have sympathy for Evan, hope that somehow everything will work out in the end and laugh, sometimes uncontrollably, at dark humor throughout the musical.

I have to confess that I nearly skipped the show on opening night to go home and watch playoff hockey.

“What am I going to get out of going to see a weepy musical about high school kids and their problems?” I asked myself.

It turns out that I got a great deal out of it.

If you already have tickets or are lucky enough to snag a few in the coming days, here are five things to know before you go.

• Yes, you will cry. But you will also laugh, especially in the first act. Jared Goldsmith as Hansen’s only “friend” and co-conspirator Jared Kleinman is hilarious. At one point he, Evan and a character named Connor Murphy break into a song and dance number called “Sincerely, Me” that is nothing short of pee-your-pants funny. The awkward teenage moments that occupy a good part of this play, especially in the first act, are scenes that anyone can relate to and produce a ton of laughs.

• Did I mention you will cry? I’m talking to you, tough guy. You might make it deep into the second act without shedding a tear. But by the time Evan’s mother, played by Jessica Phillips, tenderly sings a tune called “So Big/So Small,” you will be reduced to a sobbing puddle. You need not be embarrassed, because the only way anyone else will notice you is through their own tears.

• This show has a big heart and smartly addresses issues faced by broken families, parents dealing with the loss of a child, and teenagers coming to grips with their desperate need for acceptance and the emotional problems that can result. The musical succeeds at looking at complicated issues from all points of view.

• The music is great. The songs are well written, and the cast members sing flawless harmonies. The orchestra, rather than playing from a traditional pit area, is visible on an elevated platform above the stage. My only criticism, a slight one, is that one or two of the songs go on a bit too long.

• The Carnegie Mellon University connection is strong. Ben Levi Ross who plays Evan Hansen, studied musical theater at CMU. Christiane Noll, who plays Connor Murphy’s mom, earned a BFA in music from the university.

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].

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