Dear Evan Hansen… That was a brilliant production, and here’s why.
Following the eponymous Evan Hansen after the death of a fellow student, Dear Evan Hansen is a stunning dive into depression and loneliness in a world dominated by social media. The musical effortlessly moves from comedic highlights to utterly devastating moments, handling the tragic topic of teen suicide with deft and care. It is so much more than a musical; a message, a hand to hold, a movement.
Visiting the West End is always a treat, as I discussed in my previous article. There is an expectation when visiting the West End, due to the inherent prestige and production value, that you will be blown away more so than other UK tour, student, or non-touring production. The West End is seen as the pinnacle of British theatre and Dear Evan Hansen is no different.
I went in with high hopes and was rewarded with a flawless cast lead by the cast’s lead understudy, Marcus Harman. I had heard that our West End’s Evan was even better than Ben Platt (the original Broadway Evan), so was excited to see Sam Tutty perform. However, the fates decided that Tutty’s swing would lead the performance we watched, instead. Any vague disappointment I felt by this was completely eradicated as soon as Harman sang his first note. He was phenomenal; absolutely nailing the character, whilst holding some of the most powerful notes I’ve heard live.
It wasn’t just Harman who made this production so incredible though; the rest of the cast are unbelievably strong performers. However, for me, the most pleasant surprise was Rupert Young in the role of Larry Murphy. At first, I was delighted to realise it was Sir Leon from BBC’s Merlin (2009 -2012), but as the show went on, I forgot that I had ever seen him before he was so perfect in the role. I could go on and on about each individual cast member, as there was not one weak link in this small cast.
A show, however, is not just its cast. The staging of Dear Evan Hansen is simplistic but works a treat. Using one piece of main set, surrounded by screens showing different social media updates, allows you to focus on the story being told without distractions. The core of this musical is an unassuming story of loneliness and finding yourself, and I found the staging to reflect this simplicity in a way that is almost poetic.
Ever since the off-Broadway recording was released, I was a fan of Dear Evan Hansen, so maybe I am biased- but this may be my favourite show that I have ever seen in theatre. If you see one West End show in the New Year, make it this one… In this audience, you will be found.
Words By Danni Scott