After a year of strategizing, I did the impossible. I got a ticket to Dear Evan Hansen. I’ve been avoiding the music and any plot spoilers since the show’s debut. I prefer to go into a show with no knowledge of the music or plot. I find that it allows me to have a more organic and honest reaction. Dear Evan Hansen is a gorgeous and thoughtful examination of what it means to live and grieve in the digital age. I found the show emotionally compelling, but “So Big, So Small” absolutely broke me. The emotional authenticity of Lisa Brescia’s performance brought tears to my eyes. There was a mother daughter duo sitting in front of me, and during that song, they held hands. The daughter rested her head on the mother’s shoulder, and the mother kept kissing her daughter’s head. I was still crying when I called my mom after the show.
The set design was both minimal and deeply complex. Physically, there was a bed, couch, table, and some chairs. Projected on panels across the stage were hundreds of tweets, Facebook messages, and texts. It was a poignant contrast between the real and online life. The selected tweets from Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West, and DJ Khalid were fun Easter eggs and a perfect encapsulation of the current digital age.
The subtle character development made the show even more realistic. In the beginning, Evan would rather starve than place a phone call to a total stranger delivering his food. In the finale, he calls Zoe to meet him to talk. This development is minimal yet entirely realistic. I initially didn’t pick up on it. Evan is actively making gradual improvements and working to be a less anxious person. It was simple yet profound. Through the entire ordeal, He start to learn that love and happiness starts with self-acceptance. The subtleties extended to the costume design. While the character Connor Murphy is alive, he wears black military jacket. After his suicide as he interacts with Evan, he wears Evan’s signature grey sweatshirt. With all the attention to detail, I hope to see it again to pick up on more.
How do you mourn in the digital age? When does it become exploitative?
It’s always a joy to see Alex Boniello. I’ve seen him Off-Broadway, and it was wonderful to see him shine on Broadway as Connor Murphy.
What did you think of Dear Evan Hansen? What are your favorite songs?
Banner Image Credit: Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions / Theo Wargo