Dear Evan Hansen Review
DEAR EVAN HANSEN @ The Noel Coward Theatre
This a show I really wasn’t sure about seeing due to its themes of teen suicide, the question of whether it is ever appropriate to persist in a lie, and also the fact that I’m not always a fan of the latest “big, must-see” show. I was offered a last-minute balcony seat by a friend and couldn’t say no!
The set is really effective, with video screens and projections adding to the story. Most of the action takes place towards the front of the stage, with different set pieces swinging forward for each scene, so even if you have to book a restricted view seat for reasons of cost, you are not going to miss much (especially if you are prepared to lean a bit!), possibly with the exception of the well-known seats halfway along the grand circle and balcony slips which actually face away from the stage and are truly not suitable for vertigo sufferers.
The content of the show is far wider and deeper than I was expecting, and is a real modern-day tale set against the context of social media and mental anxiety. I was lucky to have the full main cast and I was instantly impressed with young newcomer Sam Tutty playing anxiety-ridden Evan. He is a great actor – one to watch – and has a stunning, engaging singing voice, especially his emotion-laden, pure high falsetto. Other stand-out cast for me vocally were Rebecca McKinnis as Evan’s mum, and Doug Colling as Connor. For me, the musical score itself was not as impressive as I would have liked, with a rather vague, meandering quality; some of the characters’ diction could have been clearer; and some pitching was sadly a little off key in one or two vocal ensembles.
During the first half I was really undecided if I liked it or not. Then, wham, there’s a big punchy number just before the interval that hit me hard emotionally and made me think yes, maybe this really is going to be good. In the second half the characters develop and the story becomes more emotionally complex, and this was handled so well by the whole cast. I really don’t want to include spoilers so will leave this to your imagination.
It’s taken me a good 24 hours to think about and mull over this show and decide… do I think it’s appropriate to handle its tough themes in this way? And in the end my feeling is yes: it really is a good show, and it brings attention to modern-day problems in a meaningful and emotionally effective way. It even includes a big dose of unexpected humour, some quite dark of course. It’s a very different, and, despite a few flaws, at times deeply moving musical theatre beast.
My advice is do go and see it, but before you go, do as teenagers do and listen to the soundtrack first. The music is growing on me and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I’d heard the songs before I went.