Dear Evan Hansen teaches us we're not alone

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Dear Evan Hansen | Broadway Across Canada | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | February 25 – March 1, 2020

The set immerses the audience in screens of social media feeds, the opening dialogue is a whip-fast stream of consciousness, and right away we’re plunged into Evan Hansen’s world.

As an exercise for his therapist, teenager Evan Hansen (Stephen Christopher Anthony) has to write letters to himself each day: “Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day and here’s why…” in order to build confidence and a positive outlook. He heads to school hoping to finally make some real friends and fit in, but instead he has a run in with Connor (Noah Kieserman), the class rebel. Connor picks up Evan’s therapy letter from the printer, and the next thing Evan knows, everyone thinks that they were best friends — the letter is interpreted as Connor’s suicide note.

While the story centres on a tragic suicide, there is plenty of humour in how Evan decides to deal with the unexpected turn of events. His “family friend” Jared (Alessandro Costantini) helps him come up with a plan — the only problem is one little lie grows until it becomes overwhelming. As Evan learns, sometimes getting what you always wanted comes at a cost you didn’t bargain for.

In “Words Fail,” one of the most memorable songs, Evan struggles to come to terms with the situation: “Nothing can make sense of all these things I’ve done.” Anthony’s performance is heart wrenching. Likewise, in “If I Could Tell Her” he tugs on our heartstrings while lamenting his inability to tell Connor’s sister, Zoe (Stephanie La Rochelle), how he really feels about her.

Along with Anthony, Costantini and Kieserman give convincing performances and buy into their characters wholeheartedly. Danny Mefford’s choreography is assured and closely connected to the narrative.  

In the end, Dear Evan Hansen resonates so strongly with audiences because it teaches us that we’re not alone and we can’t lie to ourselves. “You Will Be Found” is a rousing anthem that hits this message home in a powerful way. It would be hard not to be moved.

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