Oct. 21–There are abounding affidavit “Dear Evan Hansen,” the Tony-winning agreeable that added than lived up to expectations at its august aperture Friday at the Ahmanson Theatre, has become a cultural phenomenon.
First and foremost, it’s an arresting appearance that marries adventure and song as calmly as “Fun Home,” “Hamilton” or this year’s Tony-winner, “The Band’s Visit.” (Judging by the best agreeable winners for the aftermost four years, one would accept to achieve that the American agreeable is thriving. The absoluteness is added complicated, but the ablaze ancillary is actual bright.)
“Dear Evan Hansen” additionally animated the career of “Pitch Perfect” co-star Ben Platt, whose soul-baring achievement as the socially awkward appellation appearance who becomes a social-media hero beneath apocryphal pretenses becoming him a Tony Award and a fan abject (count me amid them) that can’t delay to see what he does next.
And afresh there’s the breach mural of screens speaking anon to the Instagram generation. Young bodies who would rather agitate adulate than allege to addition face to face can’t advice affectionate the accuracy of a appearance in which a acceptable allocation of the chat occurs through laptops and smartphones.
But this beautifully acted touring assembly of “Dear Evan Hansen,” beneath the aerodynamic administration of Michael Greif, appear to me, in my third appointment with the musical, addition account for why anybody appropriate now in Los Angeles is clamoring for tickets: It’s one of the best evocative portraits of the aing agitation of boyhood anytime put on stage.
The book by Steven Levenson and the account by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul abduction not alone the affecting challenges of those backbreaking aerial academy years but additionally the moral tests we sometimes flunk as we lix against developed graduation.
Ben Levi Ross, a 20-year-old amateur who grew up in Santa Monica and is apprenticed for the affected big-time with this performance, is amazing as Evan, a appearance who wears a casting on his burst arm and could use a few splints and bandages for his burst aing self. Physically, Ross’ Evan seems added brittle than Platt’s; psychologically, he’s aloof as greatly wounded. (Stephen Christopher Anthony assumes the ambitious role of Evan on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees and on Sunday black performances.)
Bullied at academy and clumsy to acknowledge to an banal greeting afterwards answer for his convulsive awkwardness, Evan finds apartment in the a of his home. He confides to us in his absolute aboriginal cardinal “Waving Through a Window” the abyss of his alienation, the faculty of actuality “on the alfresco consistently lookin’ in.”
His mother, Heidi (Jessica Phillips, affably acclimation affectionate accord with distinct ancestor grit), is a nurse’s abettor scrambling to pay the bills while demography courses at night to become a paralegal. Dinner is usually a abandoned activity for Evan, who would rather skip a meal than accident baby allocution with a commitment person.
To beat his amusing anxiety, Evan has been brash by a therapist to address belletrist of advance to himself. Prodded by his mother to complete the week’s assignment, Evan prints out a archetype of his cannonball at school, area it ends up in the easily of Connor Murphy (Marrick Smith), a afflicted boyish chief whose aptitude is to baste out at a apple he can acquisition no adequate abode in.
The analysis of this letter afterwards Connor commits suicide has agrarian after-effects for Evan, who becomes the article of affected absorption from Connor’s crestfallen parents. Mistaking the letter for Connor’s suicide agenda to a acquaintance they didn’t apperceive he had, the Murphys about accept Evan into their almost affluent household.
Cynthia (Christiane Noll), Connor’s calm mother, is atrocious to accept that her son was added than aloof a raging, self-destructive terror. Larry (Aaron Lazar), her advocate husband, is adequate that Evan is confusing his wife from affliction he finds oppressive.
Meanwhile, Evan can’t get over the way fate has brought him into aing acquaintance with Zoe (Maggie McKenna), Connor’s admirable sister, who has continued active a axial abode in his fantasy life. Love isn’t the alone acumen Evan starts artful with his abusive acquaintance Jared Kleinman (Jared Goldsmith) to actualize a aback adventure in emails of his apocryphal accord with Connor.
Evan’s doubtable motives are alloyed with the admiration to accommodate alleviation to a beggared family. But his con takes on a activity of its own. Back Alana (Phoebe Koyabe), a apprentice who copes with her own alien cachet through adamant industriousness, helps barrage the canonizing Connor Project, Evan’s adventure goes viral, axis the academy also-ran into an internet celebrity.
Don’t alike try to assumption how the adventure plays out. “Dear Evan Hansen” is consistently surprising, but what’s absorbing about the assignment is how, alike back a artifice point strains credibility, the characters are consistently psychologically true.
Evan’s aing activity is appear alluringly in song. Ross may not accept Platt’s bristling falsetto reach, but his articulation has a beaming backbone that fills the Ahmanson with its luminosity. Back Evan’s reckoning comes in the cardinal “Words Fail,” Ross unleashes the excess of affliction that fueled the character’s affecting Ponzi scheme.
McKenna’s Zoe is astute above her years, yet her advanced acuteness is leavened with the appropriate bulk of boyish rebellion. McKenna’s singing has a folk beauty, with every carol acutely acquainted in a achievement that justifies Evan’s alertness to do aloof about annihilation to be with Zoe
Smith humanizes Connor. Back Jared cracks that Connor’s continued beard is “school ballista chic,” the antic acreage because Connor’s aggressiveness has anybody on edge. But in scenes that I’ll artlessly alarm as alarmingly imaginative, Smith’s assuming hints that there may be added to Connor than animosity and aggression.
Instead of regretting, as I sometimes do, that abounding Ahmanson admirers are missing out on the aboriginal Broadway cast, I ambition New York admirers would accept the befalling to see this faultless touring ensemble. Comparisons would alone point out altered qualities of excellence, so if you’ve apparent the appearance already on Broadway you’ll be animated to acquaintance it afresh in this characteristic incarnation.
The concrete production, expertly wielding Peter Nigrini’s projections and David Korins’ define set pieces, has been tailored to the Ahmanson stage. The complete blares a bit in a few of the activation accumulation numbers, abacus a band of acerbity to the active pop-rock score, but the agreeable seems altogether at home here.
If there’s one cogent shortcoming, it’s the breadth of the show, which could use some abbreviating in the aboriginal act bureaucracy and conceivably a little added affecting ability in an catastrophe that has a few apocryphal starts.
But the ball of Goldsmith’s Jared is too crackling to cut. Koyabe’s Alana widens the ambit of boyish tribulations. And McKenna’s affecting achievement makes one ambition that Zoe’s role was larger.
The appearance assignment of the actors is exceptional. The arena in which Lazar’s Larry expresses benevolent affliction for the about adulterated Evan will accept a few men in the abode furtively flicking abroad tears. Noll’s Cynthia is too absolutely devastated to be jokingly absolved as a comfortable housewife. And the black pride with which Phillips’ Heidi rejects a angle of aid from the Murphys sheds active ablaze on the dness of this afflicted distinct mother.
Naturally, the affection and body of the appearance is Ross’ Evan, who matures the adamantine way afore our actual eyes. An base hero he may be, but this amazing advance achievement is ballsy in the accuracy it exposes about our error-strewn paths from active breach against that abroad abundance of self-acceptance.
————‘Dear Evan Hansen’
Where: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. L.A.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; ends Nov. 25 (call for exceptions)
Tickets: $99-$285 (subject to change)
Information: (213) 972-4400 or www.centertheatregroup.org
Running time: 2 hours, 40 account (including intermission)
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