Life

5 ways Dear Evan Hansen will turn your preconceptions about musical theatre upside down

In partnership with
Dear Evan Hansen
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

This cliche-free Broadway hit is breaking new ground by starting conversations and spanning generations…

If you’d missed the memo on what exactly Dear Evan Hansen is and why everyone’s talking about it, it’s the show that’s at the crest of a new wave of Broadway musicals.

The refreshingly complex, award-winning musical has just racked up seven Olivier Award nominations including Best New Musical.

It tells the story of a lonely teenager who finds himself caught up in an accidental deception after his classmate’s death. 

The show is naturalistic, and completely 21st century in its concerns - and now it’s arrived in London.

Dear Evan Hansen has already earned plaudits for its emotive story (written by Tony award-winner Steven Levenson) and for newcomer Sam Tutty’s unforgettable central performance.

And when it comes to delivering earworm-worthy songs, rest assured that La La Land and Greatest Showman songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have it covered.

Here’s why it’ll change everything you thought you knew about musicals.

  • 1. People of all ages will relate to the story

    You don’t have to be a teenager to relate to the themes of Dear Evan Hansen; friendship, grief, mental health, and the complicated power of social media. 

    This isn’t a story about just one boy. 

    It’s about a whole community who are left wrestling with huge questions after a loss they can’t explain. 

    And if that all sounds a bit serious for a night out, then bear in mind that Dear Evan Hansen has plenty of light in it as well.

    Its winning faith in the transformative power of love of all kinds leaves you in a place that’s hopeful and wonderfully uplifting. 

    Dear Evan Hansen shows what can happen when people aren’t communicating honestly with each other or not communicating at all,” says Lauren Ward, who plays Cynthia - the mother of Evan’s classmate Connor - in the show.

    “It’s hard to be yourself, as Evan tries to say to himself convincingly, but once you accept ‘this is who I am’, it is freeing and I think that is the key to life.”

  • 2. The female leads are well-drawn and complex

    There’s no prizes for guessing that this show centres on Evan Hansen, but its female roles are central to the unfolding story. 

    Evan’s mother Heidi (played by Rebecca McKinnis) is a complex figure.

    She’s a struggling single mother who’s desperate to crack into Evan’s world as he retreats further and further away from her, and into his newfound online popularity. 

    She pours out her frustrations in gutsy, melancholy numbers like ‘So Big/So Small’. 

    Meanwhile Connor’s sister Zoe is a complex figure who moves from justified scepticism to reluctant warmth towards this gawky interloper into her family’s life. 

    “She’s a feisty one,” explains Lucy Anderson who plays Zoe in the London show. 

    “She is fierce and complicated, but she has the most beautiful soul. 

    “She is in a really complex, emotional situation in this story which, I think, is rarely addressed.”

  • 3. The songs are Grammy-winning

    The soundtrack of Dear Evan Hansen won a Grammy for a reason.

    Its songs have the effortless-seeming confessional simplicity of songwriting greats like Carole King, hitting all the right emotional notes while still feeling fresh and original. 

    In a songbook of stripped back folk and piano-driven ballads, ‘You Will Be Found’ is a highlight, offering a surging message about the power of togetherness. 

    Another standout, ‘Waving Through a Window’, captures the universal feeling of being an outsider, on the edge of a world you wish you could join.

    “The songs are a driving force in this show alongside the incredible script,” says Nicole Raquel Dennis, who plays Alana in the London show.

    “They are so cleverly written that you really hear every single word sung and think about it.”

  • 4. It stages the internet in a way that feels realistic and powerful

    Think of all the stage shows that would be totally transformed by the addition of smartphones: Hamlet would be an awful lot shorter, for starters. 

    Dear Evan Hansen is arguably the first musical to engage with the way that tech has transformed our lives, and to use social media to drive its narrative. 

    As Evan Hansen finds unexpected fame online, the show’s massive digital screens make every ‘like’ or comment feel tangible and vivid – because in 2020, the internet is an inseparable part of everyday life. 

  • 5. It offers a taboo-busting perspective on mental health, grief and suicide

    Dear Evan Hansen takes you inside its protagonist’s brain, to show how anxiety and depression can colour every part of your life.

    Evan starts out as a hyper-nervous, trembling social outcast who jumps at the school bell and struggles to find anything to feel hopeful about in his grey world. 

    Then, he visibly lights up with new-found confidence as he uses Connor’s story to campaign for better mental health awareness. 

    His storyline is full of moral ambiguities: How do people cope with the unanswerable questions that follow a suicide? Is it okay to lie if no one gets hurt?

    Dear Evan Hansen explores difficult ideas in a way that’s completely non-graphic and sensitive, focusing on the complex fall-out from Connor’s passing. 

    Its bold emotional honesty means that it’s ready to provoke conversations about the things that people feel but don’t say. 

    The show has even partnered with a number of mental health charities, showing it’s more than script-deep.

Book your ticket to see Dear Evan Hansen now.