“Dear Evan Hansen…thank you. The other night, I watched your show at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando and sincerely found myself wanting to wave through the window back at you. You also gave me the desire to visit an apple orchard and take in the view. I left wanting to hug my children tighter and praying that my teens know I am truly there for them. You left this member of the audience emotionally affected by your stupendous performance and brilliant execution of the story-line. I honestly believe that this is a show EVERY parent should see with their teen. Sincerely…..ME”
I was invited as media to attend opening night of the noted production. All opinions in this post, however, are 100% mine and mine alone. This post may also contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
Dear Evan Hansen Tour Takes to the Stage at the Dr. Phillips Center
The Orlando Broadway Series continues to grace the stage of the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando. This time, the tour brings to us the profoundly emotional, yet realistic tale of a complex teen riddled with awkwardness and the desire to fit in. The deeply personal, Tony award winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen, takes its audience on a journey to find connection and realize that we are truly not alone in this world.
Winner of six 2017 Tony Awards®, including Best Musical—and the 2018 Grammy Award® for Best Musical Theater Album.
When a letter written by an anxious-appearing latch-key teen, Evan Hansen, gets into the hands of the dark and perplexed Connor Murphy, the awkward teen’s path takes a dizzying turn. He finds himself trapped within a lie that was never meant to be told, but living a life he had always dreamed of living. The production shines a bright spotlight on nearly every emotion a teenager faces this day in age and showcases the various relationships that are affected by it.
First of all, huge thanks to the Dr. PhilIips Center for hosting me and my son as media for opening night of Dear Evan Hansen in Orlando. It had been a long time goal of mine to see this show and I was beyond elated to hear I would finally have opportunity to cross this off the theatrical bucket list. My 16 year old son, and date for the evening, has been a DEH fan for years, having memorized every single lyric to every single song in the repertoire. He obviously felt very much the same way I did and we both anxiously anticipated the moment we would see the set for the first time.
For those who are local, the show runs here in Orlando until April 21st and then continues its national tour around the country to cities such as Atlanta, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
When the lights went down on the house, echoing through the auditorium was the sound of a phone ringing overhead. It was at that moment, all eyes turned to the stage.
It’s a fascination of mine to watch how scenes flow into each other on stage. Every since I saw Les Misérables when I was in high school, I have been entranced by how each set moves, rotates and changes flawlessly into the next set of circumstances.
The set for Dear Evan Hansen is ironically simplistic, yet extremely unique and innovative at the same time!! It uses technology I’ve never seen used before in a Broadway performance, as the stage is draped in running social media threads. It would be difficult to not feel the effect the role social media plays in the story-line.
My son and I were amazed at the “choreography” (which was pretty much movement without dance), blocking and scene changes. They were poignant and purposeful. Despite so much movement from the cast, however, you knew exactly where to focus each and every step of the way.
The talent on that stage was immense. Every role was masterfully performed and the vocal ability demonstrated was jaw-dropping. While there was a bit more drop-off on extremes than I would have expected, such as falsettos and low notes, the emotion behind the songs was powerful and extremely satisfying. The impact cancelled out any slight issue with pitch or control.
Ben Levi Ross is remarkable. He filled the very large shoes he was given to wear by his title character’s Broadway brothers. His every twitch, every anxious word and every insecure thought was felt deeply. My son and I found connecting with him extremely easy to do. His vocals were spot on and demonstrated the weight of any loneliness, anxiety and frustration he carried. He delivered the character to us exquisitely.
Another favorite in the performance was Jared Goldsmith (Jared Kleinman), who was hilarious and offensive all at the same time. Jared gave us a reason to laugh until our sides hurt, as well as cautiously revealed his vulnerabilities as the show progressed. It was easy to simultaneously love him and hate him throughout the show, but, in the end, he ultimately found a way into our hearts.
What struck me most, however…
The benefit of having an extraordinary cast, an expertly written script and brilliantly executed direction is that the combined talent is capable of effectively communicating a very powerful and genuine message.
Dear Evan Hansen is more than just a story about an anxious boy. It’s more than a musical with contagious melodies and gratifying harmonies. It is a thought-provoking, eye-opening and informative production that leaves its audience experiencing the emotional spectrum – heartbroken, convicted AND encouraged. This is honestly one show I would have no qualms in highly and strongly recommending that every parent see WITH their teen sitting beside him/her.
While the dialogue is laced with some profanity and references to sex, my son reminded me that “this is every day high school.” With that, I understood(even more) how important it was to appreciate the story and its delivery.
From beginning to end, Dear Evan Hansen covers a multitude of contemporary topics that have plagued teens for decades. Of late, however, they seem to be on the increase and parents are having more and more difficulty connecting with their young adults. All the while, young adults are having difficulty connecting with each other.
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The show sheds light on to areas such as…
- Depression / Anxiety…
- Struggling marriage…
- Sibling rivalry…
- Hiding behind masks (defense mechanisms)…
- Peer pressure…
- The dangers and influence of social media…
The list goes on….but it’s all encapsulated in just under three hours of dialogue and song. The writers did an incredible job writing a script, creating lyrics and composing music that successfully draws on every emotion possible. My son and I both laughed, cried, broke and smiled ~ together. Our hearts went through a rigorous workout ~ together.
Talking with My Own Teen….
Once the curtain fell and we were able to escape the noise of the crowd, I took the opportunity to chat with my 16 year old about his interpretation of the performance.
This is my theater nerd ~ the one who loves performing on the big stage himself. Prior to seeing the stage production, he had already read the book and has been listening to the original soundtrack since the musical won six Tony Awards back in 2007.
So, when I asked him what he felt was the underlying theme in the musical, I wasn’t shocked to hear his reply. Without hesitation, he immediately blurted out, “You (being understood) are not alone in this world.” He recognized that there is a need to look beyond the exterior and understand that EVERYBODY matters ~ that no one should be forgotten. This is coming from a boy who has had to be the new kid more times than I can count because of our moving around with his father’s military career (oh, the adventures we have had as a family!!). He certainly understands the desire to fit in and the process it takes to find your tribe.
What did take me by surprise was what he said in addition to the above. At some point during the production, he leaned towards me and said, with all sincerity, that this was perhaps the most accurate representation of high school out there.
Hmmm…..that gave me reason to pause.
The message goes beyond adolescence…
While teens are obviously the primary focus, they are not the solitary focus. These same issues can affect anyone at any age and at any stage in life. No one is immune to the potential for depression, loneliness or the effects of social media these days. If only we had the courage to just OPEN the window, instead of waving through it ~ if only we could help someone back up rather than kicking them back down. If only we could stop the judgement, stop the condescension, stop the exclusion and, instead, start waving back, instead of walking by.
Long story short? GO SEE THIS MUSICAL! It is brilliantly orchestrated and executed and it will test your heart and emotions in ways you didn’t expect. It’s also a tremendous opportunity to connect with the teens in your life and…perhaps…even give you the strength to face a few of your own inner battles, as well (she says, as she looks into a mirror).
Within seconds of the last word sung, the audience was on its feet with applause. Every actor on that stage was celebrated for his/her astonishing performance. The message was made loud and clear. Everyone seeks connection and everybody struggles with something. In the end, however, EVERYONE matters and EVERYBODY deserves to be found.
“Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found”
Dear Evan Hansen
Songwriters: Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Have you seen Dear Evan Hansen either on Broadway or on the road? How did it impact you and who was your favorite character in the intimately small cast? Feel free to share your thoughts below!
For most, if not all, productions, Guests have the chance to meet some of the actors after the performance by heading to the Stage Door located outside the venue. Once the actors have had a chance to change out of costume, a few usually exit out to sign autographs and pose for photos. For this performance, we had the chance to meet Christiane Noll (Mrs. Murphy), Marrick Smith (Connor), Aaron Lazar (Mr. Murphy) and Jared Goldsmith (Jared).
Watch Ben Levi Ross (Evan Hansen) as he shares,”Waving Through A Window”
The remainder of the 2018-2019 season promises more amazing performances with hits such as Anastasia and Come Far and Away. Be sure to check out my post highlighting the upcoming 2019-2020 season, which will feature famed titles such as Les Misérables, Aladdin and My Fair Lady.
Read my previous reviews here:
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