‘Dear Evan Hansen’ offers a message of connection and hopeMar 01, 2023 11:33AM ● By Peri Kinder
Anthony Norman (Evan Hansen), Alaina Anderson (Zoe Murphy) perform in the Tony Award-winning “Dear Evan Hansen” at Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City through March. 5. (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)
Evan Hansen didn’t mean to lie. It was only his intention to bring hope to a family in the midst of despair. When classmate Connor Murphy (August Emerson) dies by suicide, Evan inadvertently steps into the narrative and begins to spin a web of lies that grows out of control, even as he grows in popularity and social status.
Anthony Norman nails the title role, portraying Evan’s crippling anxiety, teenage angst and heartbreaking loneliness as his character navigates through the complexity of his dreams, hopes - and lies. He lives with his single mother (Coleen Sexton) who is busy at work and school, trying to make the best life she can for her son. Her performance as a stressed mother who knows she’s falling short will resonate with others in the same situation.
“Dear Evan Hansen,” at Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City (50 W. 200 South) through Sunday, March 5, is the story of a young man who finds his voice at the expense of his moral compass. The show won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Actor, and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. The musical portrays an intimate, heartbreaking, humorous and uplifting message about the fragility of life and the need we have for connection.
Evan’s classmates Alana Beck (Micaela Lamas) and Jared Kleinman (Pablo David Laucerica) propagate Evan’s lie as realizes the narrative is no longer in his control. Connor’s parents (John Hemphill and Lili Thomas) cling to Evan’s story as a way to understand their son in a new light.
As Evan gets closer to the Murphy family, he is torn between coming clean or living this utopian life, complete with a wealthy father and mother. Another complication: he’s in love with Connor's sister, Zoe (Alaina Anderson), who begins to wonder if she even knew her brother at all.
With only eight performers, the musical is an intimate look at family relationships, the loneliness of being a social outcast and the grief experienced by a family who lose a loved one to suicide.
The remarkable songs and music, created by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are heartfelt and inspirational, moving the story toward its inevitable conclusion. How will the truth be revealed? Who will be devastated by the fallout?
Crowd favorite musical numbers include “Waving Through a Window,” and “For Forever” and the end of the first act featured “You Will Be Found,” a song about hope and the belief we’re never alone.
The set made great use of social media effects, using video screens to highlight the viral video of Evan’s speech in the first act, as well as how quickly the tide can turn. With scenes consisting of either a bed, a table, a couch or a workbench, the simple sets created an intimate backdrop to the relationships of the family members.
With “Dear Evan Hansen” prepare to be pulled back to the cringeworthy angst of being a high school student. The powerful performances, uplifting message and beautiful songs will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
Tickets for the show are available at Saltlakecountyarts.org/venues/eccles-theater