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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


REVIEW: ‘Today is going to be a good day’ for a ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ review

Tereza Rascon
Photo of the “Dear Evan Hansen” playbill

On Feb. 26 at Centennial Hall, I had the opportunity to watch the performance of the well-known musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” By playwright Steven Levenson, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and direction by Michael Greif, “Dear Evan Hansen” takes audiences on an eye-opening and heartbreaking journey of grief, mental health and societal pressures. But at the same time, it offers hope and comfort. 

Summary of the plot:

“Dear Evan Hansen” revolves around a teenage boy named Evan Hansen who has severe social anxiety. As assigned by his therapist, he writes letters to himself in order to build up his confidence. One day, his letter ends up in the hands of a student named Connor Murphy, who takes his own life. When Connor’s parents call Evan to the office to give him the letter ‘addressed’ to him, Evan finds himself caught in a whirlwind of events, leaving him in the center of it all. 

The plot:

At first glance, the plot of the musical is slightly troublesome, since there is not one perfect character, even Evan. However, this is also what makes the musical so enjoyable. The musical makes viewers ponder the morality of all of the characters. I viewed this musical as a commentary on the societal pressures of being something you’re not and the morality of doing something wrong with good intentions. 

Evan does wish to provide comfort to the Murphys and help keep Connor’s memory alive, but Evan’s actions are not selfless. But if viewers look closer, every character is selfish in their own way, which is evident throughout the musical. While Evan can easily be agreed to be in the wrong, the narrative of the play makes the situation more complex.

Ultimately, the message the musical sends is impactful. As the song “Disappear” best puts it, “No one deserves to be forgotten, no one deserves to fade away.” We live in a society that operates based on the latest trends and spectacles, where individuals can easily feel alone in such a digitally connected world. The musical reminds us that we’re never truly alone.

Set design:

Using projection screens, smartphone and laptop screens were able to be simulated. Phone calls and social media feeds were projected with sound, accompanying the rest of the unique set design.

With set, projection and sound design done by David Korins, Peter Nigrini and Nevin Steinberg respectively, it made for an interactive and stimulating presentation. The surplus of stimulation helped to contribute to the overwhelming sensations that the character Evan Hansen and any teenager of the social media era could relate to. 

Actors/Actresses performances:

The performances of all the actors and actresses were phenomenal, all so engaging and powerful. What they brought to their characters felt so natural and raw. There were two character performances though that stuck with me even after the curtains fell. 

  • Evan Hansen
    • Played by Pierce Wheeler, his performance was filled with natural humor and body language. Viewers could easily see his character develop throughout the entirety of his performance. I loved how Wheeler wasn’t afraid to show the flaws in Evan’s character as well as the strengths. The way he would crack his voice during certain songs or physically struggle to move or talk, all added to this character.
  • Zoe Murphy 
    • Played by Alaina Anderson, she portrayed Zoe’s complicated grief over her brother’s death so well. Anderson did a phenomenal job showing Zoe’s struggle of fitting into the perspective of the “mournful sister” despite having a complicated relationship with her brother at times. There are so many walls that surround this character, and Anderson does an amazing job portraying the gradual fall of these walls as the musical progresses.

Music & choreography:

The entirety of the score was memorable. The lyrics themselves all emulated important messages and insights into the characters intentions that normal dialogue couldn’t capture. Plus, through Danny Mefford’s choreography that accompanied these songs — the performance became even more layered. There were two particular songs that I liked the most during my viewing.

  • “Waving Through A Window”
    • Not only did this song capture the feelings of isolation and the anxiety that come from feeling invisible, but it definitely served as a catalyst for the events of the play. The choreography of having all the characters appear in the background gives viewers an understanding that this isn’t just Evan’s story, but that the anxieties he shares are felt by everyone in some capacity. 
  • “Requiem” 
    • This is perhaps my favorite song of the musical because it truly captured the multitude layers of grief that the Murphy family goes through. This trio composition captured both a mournful tune as well as explored the complexities behind making sense of someone’s death and the struggles of processing your feelings of someone’s death when so many eyes are on you. 

Overall thoughts:

“Dear Evan Hansen” lives up to all the recognition it’s received, and I would highly encourage everyone to watch this performance for themselves. By the end of this play, you will realize that no matter how alone you feel, you will be found.

Follow Tereza Rascon on Twitter 

Tereza Rascon (she/her) is a senior majoring in English. She enjoys reading, writing and watching the latest movies and shows. 

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