Dear Evan Hansen,
Today was a great day. It was all thanks to the hard-working performers of the national tour of “Dear Evan Hansen.”
On Wednesday, the audience at Popejoy Hall intently listened to each note, each word resonating in a different way.
The Tony Award-winning musical opened its seven-performance run in Albuquerque – and it was a performance that runs the gamut of emotions.
The winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” features a book by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson, a score by Grammy, Tony and Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif.
The musical tells the story of Evan Hansen, a bullied 17-year-old with social anxiety and depression with a recently broken arm, who is assigned by his therapist Dr. Sherman to write letters to himself detailing what will be good about each day.
His overworked mother Heidi, played by Coleen Sexton, suggests that he ask people to sign the cast on his arm to make friends.
Across town, the wealthy Murphy family – Cynthia, Larry, and their children Zoe and Connor – sit down to breakfast. Zoe and Larry berate Connor for getting high before school, while Cynthia struggles with the fact that her family is falling apart.
The two mothers wonder simultaneously how to connect with their sons.
Lili Thomas and Sexton bring different forms of grief to the roles of Cynthia and Heidi, respectively.
Sexton is looking for a way to help her son, Evan, get better. She’s working and going to school to make their lives better, yet can’t seem to make a path.
Meanwhile, Thomas’ grief stems from the loss of her son, which no parent should have to deal with.
Sexton says although she doesn’t have children, she’s connected with Heidi over the course of the national tour.
“It’s emotionally draining,” she says of the musical. “… by Monday, the entire cast is spent.”
After the nearly two-hour performance, the audience showed emotions by wiping away tears and sniffling.
The entire cast, which includes Alaina Anderson, John Hemphill, Micaela Lamas, Pablo David Lauceria, Reese Sebastian Diaz, Pierce Wheeler, August Emerson, Sexton, Thomas and Anthony Norman, brought power to each of their roles.
Anderson’s Zoe Murphy is a teenager trying to understand her family’s situation. The realness of her portrayal was so precise, it reminded me of being a teenager – full of questions.
Hemphill as Larry Murphy was intense as we slowly see the steps of grief for his family. At first, he’s closed off and walks away from any of the problems. During the second act, he’s on his knees giving into the grief and letting his emotions run the course.
With any drama, there has to be a comedic balance. This comes in the form of Laucerica’s Jared Kleinman, who brings to life the friend that you never realized you needed. The one-liners hit every time – precisely perfect.
Meanwhile, Lamas’ Alana Beck is the girl who has goals and wants to be involved even making herself co-president of The Connor Project, though she was only an acquaintance of Connor Murphy.
Emerson was also divine in the shoes of Connor Murphy – as he brought plenty of teen angst and insecurity to life. Thus, reminding us that the picture is not always what it seems.
Then there’s Norman’s Evan Hansen, who is a fast-talking, insecure, 17-year-old, whose hands get sweaty when nervous.
Norman went into the production knowing he would be challenged with the role.
After some time performing in the title role, Norman’s also learned many things.
“I’ve learned that Evan’s spent the majority of his very young life making sure other people are happy because he wants people to feel OK,” Norman says. “Near the end of the show, he learns that looking out for yourself and doing what makes you happy is best.”
Norman spends a lot of time on the stage and I found each moment to be captivating.
With power and plenty of vulnerability, Norman is able to round out the many characteristics of Evan Hansen. By doing this, the audience can feel a connection.
From the opening number of “Anybody Have a Map?” to the finale, “Dear Evan Hansen” has a message – it’s one of hope.
This is exactly the message we need in today’s world – one where no words fail.
To wrap this up – simply:
Dear Evan Hansen,