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Dear Evan Hansen review at Music Box Theatre, New York – ‘devastatingly powerful’

How thrilling it is that Broadway, a place largely turned into a destination to make money not art, is still capable of producing shows that are genuinely bold, daring and confrontational.

With Hamilton and the recent arrival of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, there’s plenty to challenge and provoke already. Dear Evan Hansen adds to New York’s impressive musical slate.

While the show revolves around teenagers, this isn’t High School Musical or Grease, but a very adult musical. The plot concerns a pair of isolated outsiders who become irrevocably bonded after one takes his life and the other is unwittingly implicated in a fabricated, consoling lie told to comfort the grieving parents.

It’s a powerful, intimate, original and redemptive story. It is also bang up-to-date in how it incorporates the pressures of social media to keep the story alive and in people’s guilty consciences.

The musical boasts a darkly textured and deeply nuanced book by Steven Levenson and provocative songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul that are drenched in feeling and fearless commitment. It never sentimentalises its subject, but feels constantly truthful.

As with the same composing team’s Dogfight (produced at Southwark Playhouse in 2014) this show registers its emotions with a frank, fearless ambivalence.

The tone of uncertainty and palpable unease is stunningly projected by Ben Platt, his face regularly damp with sweat and tears, as the title character who ends up doing decidedly the wrong thing by trying to do the right thing.

There are equally impressive performances from the other seven actors in the tight ensemble of Michael Greif’s deeply felt production. It’s another must-see show in a New York theatre scene that is currently full of them.

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Verdict
Devastatingly powerful, intense new musical about a teenage suicide and the lies that build up around it

Production

Production
Dear Evan Hansen
Venue
Music Box Theatre
City
New York
Starts
November 14, 2016
Ends
July 2, 2017
Press night
December 4, 2016
Book
Steven Levenson
Music
Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Lyrics
Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Director
Michael Greif
Musical director
Ben Cohn (musical director)
, Alex Lacamoire (orchestrations),
Choreographer
Danny Mefford
Set
David Korins
Lighting
Japhy Weideman
Sound
Nevin Steinberg
Costume
Emily Rebholz
Video
Peter Nigrini (projections)
Stage manager
Judith Schoenfeld (production stage manager)
Cast includes
Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfuss, Mike Faist, Rachel Bay Jones, Kristlyn Lloyd, Michael Park, Will Roland, Jennifer Laura Thompson
Casting
Tara Rubin/ Lindsay Levine
Producer
Stacey Mindich, Mickey Liddell, Hunter Arnold, Caiola Productions, Double Gemini Productions, Fakston Productions, Roy Furman, Harris Karma Productions, On Your Marks Group, Darren Bagert, Roger & William Berlind, Bob Boyett, Colin Callender, Caitlin Clements, Freddy DeMann, Dante Di Loreto, Bonnie & Kenneth Feld, FickStern Productions, Eric and Marsi Gardiner, Robert Greenblatt, Jere Harris and Darren DeVerna, The John Gore Organization, Mike Kriak, Arielle Tepper Madover, David Mirvish, Eva Price, Zeilinger Productions, Adam Zotovich, Ambassador Theatre Group, Independent Presenters Network and The Shubert Organization, in association with Arena Stage and Second Stage Theatre

Running time
2hrs 25mins