Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at The Music Box Theatre in NYC

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This highly imaginative and moving musical was presented off Broadway by the Second Stage company in May of this year. It enjoyed a sold out run for a month, and was honored by a dozen awards for performance, book, music, lyrics, direction, even for its scenic projections. I saw it then, and added my own very positive comments to its long list of them by my colleagues. I had some concern about the announced move to Broadway, fearing that some of the intimacy of its very personal story would be lost in a larger theatre, perhaps with changes in casting to make it more enticing to the general public, for at Second Stage there was a perfectly formed company, but no big box office names among the principals.

Ben Platt (Evan Hansen), Jennifer Laura Thompson (Cynthia Murphy), and Michael Park (Larry Murphy). Photo by Matthew Murphy.

I needn’t have worried. Under the lead banner of Producer Stacey Mindich, who has guided this show from a long ago lunch to readings to Arena Stage to Second Stage, a group of over thirty have joined forces with him to move the show to the Music Box on Broadway, wisely bringing with them the whole kit and caboodle of actors and the entire staff of professionals including Director Michael Greif and Choreographer Danny Mefford. Only John Dossett, who played a pivotal but small role in the original, was replaced by Michael Park because Mr. Dossett moved on to a top featured role in the incoming musical War Paint.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Photo courtesy of their website.

If anything, Dear Evan Hansen, with the extraordinary Ben Platt in the title role, has grown in stature and lost none of the intimacy that made it so effective in the original. And how refreshing to find another new work, based on nothing but the imaginative minds of its author Steven Levenson and Composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Mr. Levenson is a founding member of MCC’s Playwrights Coalition and has served a solid apprenticeship via several plays at the Roundabout and at Ars Nova among others.The Pasek-Paul collaboration has been developing with the encouragement of the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre and awards for A Christmas Story: The Musical and Dogfight as well as the just arrived film LaLa Land.Clearly these three give us hope that the theatre’s future is now in some very gifted hands.

I would refer you to my review, published on this site on May 5th of this year. I repeat that this highly original story of the growth of Evan Hansen, his journey from the pain that loneliness brings as his only companion to the catharsis that sets him free as he faces the truth about the letter he wrote to himself, the one that began “Dear Evan Hansen.” That letter, in the wrong hands, causes lies to be told, lies that could have caused the destruction of two families and a number of accessories. The material is well plotted, and it builds to a smashing climax which raises the stakes and gives Mr. Platt a chance to soar with eloquence.

Ben Platt and the cast of ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Reminiscent of the startling performance of Alex Sharp in the equally brilliant entry last season of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night Time, I found myself equally mesmerized by this new musical, now bringing new luster to 45th Street at the Music Box.

I must mention again the consistently first-rate performances of Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Kristolyn Lloyd, Will Roland, Jennifer Lawrence Thompson, Laura Dreyfuss, and the newly added Michael Park that play so beautifully in support of the remarkable Ben Platt.

Dear Evan Hansen is a major contribution to musical theatre and the Broadway season.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with an intermission.

Dear Evan Hansen is playing at The Music Box Theatre – 239 West 45th Street, in New York City.

LINKS:
Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at Second Stage Theatre in NYC by Richard Seff.

Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at Arena Stage by Derek Mong.

Magic Time!: A Love Letter to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ by John Stoltenberg.

Mike Faist on Playing Connor in ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at Arena Stage by Joel Markowitz.

Fantastic News! ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ to Have A Spring 2016 Run At NYC’s Second Stage by Joel Markowitz.

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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.