After an enormously successful run in Toronto following the show’s instant popularity on Broadway, fan favourite Dear Evan Hansen is debuting at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium Feb. 11. The heartfelt musical has won six Tony awards for its honest approach to tackling seriously heavy topics, like social isolation and grief. Songwriters Benji Pasek and Justin Paul crafted the catchy, emotional lyrics which lend the incredibly raw subject matter its heart and has made audiences laugh and cry alongside the beloved characters.
During a phone call with Stephanie La Rochelle, who plays Evan Hansen’s crush, Zoe, I got a sense of what drew the long-time actor and singer to the role.
The thing that stands out most to La Rochelle is the positive messages that the show provides, to people in all kinds of circumstances. “I think what’s really special about this show is that its sort of opening up dialogue for mental health and starting that conversation and sort of helping erase the stigma surrounding that,” La Rochelle said. This message should be at the forefront of our efforts always and is especially poignant so soon after Bell Let’s Talk Day.
La Rochelle also expressed a resemblance to the character of Zoe, as having “had a similar high school experience. (Zoe) is smart and dedicated and sort of keeps to herself,” and many of us can certainly relate to that at some point in our high school or university experiences. However, she added that everyone who sees the show will take something different away from it, and there is an angle for everybody. “What’s really cool is we see a lot of different relationships up on stage and it’s sort of a show for people of all ages … Everyone can sort of see themselves in at least one of the characters.”
Dear Evan Hansen is flourishing and gaining popularity because we’re at a time when we need this kind of open, honest conversation to tackle issues such as mental health, and the production presents the discussion brilliantly. “Ultimately, it ends with an uplifting message and it’s just sort of an anthem for people dealing with different issues or struggles,” La Rochelle said, adding that she hopes viewers are able to reach out and speak up about whatever may be troubling them. Dear Evan Hansen’s uplifting lyrics promise that no matter what, “you will be found.”