Dear Evan Hansen Deserves To Stay In The West End For A Long Time
We've all done it, told a 'little white lie' that spirals out of control till you have no choice but to go along with it, or watch the world collapse around you.
For Evan Hansen, a 15 year old high school bookworm — think of a not-so-Young-Sheldon twitchy with anxiety disorder — it's even tougher. The school bully Connor Murphy snatches a note he'd written to himself, commits suicide and his grieving family believe Evan was his 'best friend' almost adopting him as a surrogate son, and each using him as a scratching post to deflect from their own fractured relationships.
Oh, and The Connor Project, an online memorial webpage captures the attention of isolated teens across America, goes viral and Evan becomes an internet icon.
Already hailed as a 'great musical' with six Tony Awards on Broadway, one of the most remarkable things about Dear Evan Hansen is that the storyline written by Steven Levenson is intriguing enough that it could survive without the songs. It's clearly destined to be performed in every high school in America, and with 37,000 of them that's a lot of royalties lined up for creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who also wrote Hugh Jackman-starring The Greatest Showman.
They're masters at the popular anthem — in the same way that This Is Me sung by Keala Settle transcended the movie to become a touchstone for trans and marginalised people, the warmly reassuring You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen is the new go-to song and hashtag for troubled teens.
The staging is a carbon copy of the Broadway production with scrolling screens showing the Facebook and Instagram posts of the background characters. It's less clever than the projection of Christopher's thoughts in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and less colourful than Everbody's Talking About Jamie but if you liked either, there's something for you here.
As Evan, and in a West End debut Sam Tutty is wholly absorbed in the role, sings extraordinarily well and is touchingly convincing as a boy whose speaking voice is breaking while his singing voice can incorporate a haunting falsetto. We also enjoyed Jack Loxton as Jared, Evan's computer geek sidekick, mainly because he gets the rare comedy lines in the script: without him, it could all be a bit too earnest.
It's solid, beautifully designed and lit, and the story and songs will stay with you. Looks like Evan could be in London for a while.
Dear Evan Hansen, Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4AP, £30-£123. Booking to 2 May 2020
Last Updated 22 November 2019