By Michelle Stevinson, Latin Life Denver Media
‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is a marvelous, highly energetic and emotional musical about a lonely teenage boy facing many challenges at home, school and on social media.
Issues like loneliness, fear and anxiety many youth and adults are experiencing, especially during a pandemic. Parents or peers are inspired to reach out, talk, listen and understand what is going on in their lives, especially what they are posting and sharing on social media.
In this brilliant and relatable performance by Stephen Christopher Anthony playing the character Evan Hansen, the audience follows his journey from a socially awkward loner who feels unseen to inadvertently becoming a popular social media sensation even adored by his high-school crush. Despite secretly exploiting his classmates tragic death. It seems he gets the life he always wanted, or does he really?
Stephen Christopher Anthony is so convincing in his role as Evan Hansen, lanky and fragile with a quirky demeanor that is clumsy, stutters and scared. He is full of anxiety, fear and loneliness. He has no real friends and too afraid to even answer the door for food delivery because it means having to interact with another human being. Yet he has to go to school and deal with everything that goes on there, including other students and being bullied. Yet when he sings all that insecurity miraculously disappears, his voice is powerful and confident.
‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is about a pep-talk letter Evan Hansen writes to himself as part of his therapy. The letter inadvertently falls into the wrong hands of Connor Murphy, played by Noah-Kieserman, and soon everything goes awry. A web of lies and fake social media posts rule the day.
Story of how lies unfolded and go fund me.
Connor’s parents find him with Evan’s letter after a tragic suicide. So they believe that Evan is his best friend kept in secret. Evan stutters but does not deny the friendship. He feels important and soon loved like a son by Conner’s parents and their daughter.
Don’t get me wrong, Dear Evan Hansen is also funny and very entertaining. It won six Tony Awards including Best Musical and a 2018 Grammy Award.
That being said, this is not just a play about teenagers who get carried away on social media creating a viral response to a go fund me page to honor the life of a fellow student they previously showed no interest in.
The cliché “Not a dry eye in the house” does not come close to the emotion this production evokes in the audience as everyone is forced to take an introspective look at the dysfunction that very well may exists in their own family, school and community. The open weeping by many in the theatre made me wonder, were they crying about the story being told on stage or were they sobbing about things in their own lives, in their own families, situations which have happened or things they have ignored or are in denial of? I suspect it was the latter.
It is more about the dysfunction that exists in almost every family. The skeleton in the closet, the elephant in the room, the things parents, teachers and others want to pretend don’t really exist. Broken kids whose cries for help and attention are all too often ignored by parents who are too busy with whatever, trusting that medication and therapy will take care of their children’s issues.
Yes, it is that different. It is that powerful. It is that thought-provoking, life-affirming, and, dare I say it — life-changing.”
Many parents brought their teens to the production. Presumably hoping Dear Evan Hansen would help start the conversation about what is going on in their lives and be comfortable and trusting in sharing those thoughts and feelings with them. Usually the audience flees the theatre at the end of a play trying to escape the parking madness but this time it was different. Dozens of people lingered in the lobby in groups of various sizes engaged in conversation. No one seemed to be in a hurry to leave the experience.
Dear Evan Hansen plays the Denver’s Buell Theater through June 5. Denver launched the national tour in 2018. In advance of the start of performances, the production announced that it will host a digital ticket lottery offering fans the chance to purchase a limited number of $25 tickets available per performance.