On Thursday 25th August I attended the evening performance of Dear Evan Hansen, which plays at the Nöel Coward Theatre in London’s West End. Dear Evan Hansen is a heartfelt story that takes the audience on a rollercoaster journey of compassion, heartbreak and realisation.
The Story of Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of 17 year old high school senior Evan Hansen and how his social anxiety prevents him from connecting with the world. Following his therapist’s advice, Evan begins to write letters to himself but things escalate when these letters are misunderstood and become a string of lies. It’s not until he discovers that his bully, Connor Murphy, had died that Evan’s life drastically changed.
The Cast and Creatives
The smash hit musical, Dear Evan Hansen, directed by Michael Greif, was originally performed on Broadway in 2016 and only closed just recently after playing six years at the Music Box Theatre in New York City. The musical now also has a film adaptation that stars the original Evan Hansen, Ben Platt.
The show premiered in London late 2019 and making his West End Debut, Sam Tutty brought Evan Hansen to life on the Nöel Coward Stage. Tutty has remained in this starring role throughout the last three years and performs alongside just seven other cast members each day. The UK production was directed by Jon Emmanuel.
Sam’s performance was nothing less than sensational, he portrays the role with such excellence that you are drawn so deeply into the characters world. As well as his acting, Sam’s voice is simply remarkable, bringing tears to the audience’s eyes as he emulates such realistic emotion through each song, the part couldn’t have been better cast. Additionally, the actors I saw perform alongside Sam were; Rebecca McKinnis (Heidi Hansen), Doug Colling (Connor Murphy), Samantha Mbolekwa (U/S Zoe Murphy), Haydn Cox (U/S Jared Kleinman), Iona Fraser (Alana Beck), Tricia Adele-Turner (U/S Cynthia Murphy) and Mark Peachey (U/S Larry Murphy).
Despite the small cast, the show is very personal and has enough going on that doesn’t require a larger cast, you get the full understanding of the plot through the incredible music and clever set.
The soundtrack to Dear Evan Hansen has been on repeat since I left the theatre, despite the serious themes, the songs are a mixture of uplifting, emotional and even comical tracks. Music and lyrics written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, help guide the audience through the show in an informative and relatable manner.
All of the songs have vital messages hidden in the lyrics, but the songs that stood out in particular were; ‘Requiem’ and ‘Disappear’, ‘You Will Be Found’, and ‘Worlds Fail’. This was solely down to the actors stage presence combined with each song’s moving lyrics, I felt very engaged and captivated during these scenes due to the clarity and outlook on the individual narratives. Despite mature themes, the songs are quite catchy too, including ‘Anybody Have A Map’, ‘Waving Through A Window’, ‘Sincerely, Me’ and ‘Good For You’.
The set for Dear Evan Hansen was designed by David Korins. The set design for this show is phenomenal, it’s so simple yet very effective. From the moment you enter the auditorium you feel like you’re already watching the show. The use of projected screens and sound effects of social media notifications instantly informs you of some of the plot and how it feels to live in Evan’s world, not only this but it certainly keeps you engaged before the show starts, at least for me, I was reading everything on there.
It’s quite common among theatre shows to have pre-show music or sound, but this is evidently different. These projections were design by Peter Nigrini. Korins explained that he; ‘was trying to maintain this idea of people floating through a void, on tectonic plates of life with their own internal monologues and their own emotional space, while at the same time trying to connect to each other and the world around them’.
Overall Dear Evan Hansen gets a five star review from me, now one of my favourites! This musical is an absolute must see, it is probably the most important show in the West End right now as it shares so much, so intensively about society and mental health and how vital it is among the younger generation. Unfortunately the smash hit musical is sadly closing on October 22nd 2022, so make sure you get your tickets and see the show before its too late.