There are many ways to measure the success of a show: professional accolades, rave reviews, the continuing achievements of cast and crew alike. While six-time Tony award-winning Dear Evan Hansen can humbly brag about all of these categories, I measured the musical on its opening night in Edmonton by the number of tears shed and the eagerness of the audience to leap into a roaring standing ovation before the end of the finale.
When a personal letter that was never meant to be seen gets into the wrong hands and everyone interprets their own meaning, Evan Hansen is forced to create a version of himself to keep up with a lie that spreads like wildfire. He is given a glimpse of the life he always dreamed of but never imagined could be his, and giving it all up may be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.
The story tugs mightily at the heartstrings but has a delightful comedic element running throughout, often provided by socially awkward high schooler Evan, who has a penchant for blurting out witty one-liners completely by accident. He is joined onstage by a strikingly real portrayal of a struggling single mother and a picture-perfect family who are all fighting their own difficult battles.
The stage has been constructed to appeal to a young audience, with floor-to-ceiling screens depicting a flurry of messages and social media notifications constantly moving amid the live-action. Small physical sets slide in and out seamlessly, leaving the audience’s attention on the characters as they navigate the distracting online universe and deal with their unfolding drama.
Dear Evan Hansen is a story for everyone, where every character lends a different kind of familiarity and comfort to viewers. The problems they face are so real, and their reactions so honest, I couldn’t help but be swept along. Having personal experience with the subject matter had me bawling at the sight of a mother cradling a pillow and singing out a single mournful note, but everyone who sees the show will take from it a different poignant moment. The friend that I attended with has already downloaded the entire soundtrack and followed the cast on Instagram, and we agree that the song “For Forever” will never not be stuck in our heads.
The show isn’t here for long, so be sure to grab tickets on the Jubilee Auditorium’s website from today until Feb. 16!
Fans also have a chance at winning the chance to purchase tickets for $25 each by following social media accounts and participating in a lottery draw! Additional information and requirements can be found at luckyseat.com/dearevanhansen.