Howdy! This past weekend, I enjoyed an outing with an old theater friend, Sabrina, to see Dear Evan Hansen at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. Despite both of us not loving the musical, it was still a fun day filled with good food, drinks, and wonderful company. I was so happy when Sabrina invited me to see the show because our schedules never work well with each other so it was really nice to make up for lost time. As we are both theater nerds, we were able to have a great discussion about the show afterwards so here is what we thought as well as a brief synopsis (Without giving too much away!)
So, what you need to know about Dear Evan Hansen is the following: A troubled teen who is an outsider at school has homework from his therapist where he has to write letters to himself explaining why it’s going to be a great day. As Evan is printing his “homework” out in the library, an even more troubled teen named Conner snatches the letter and confiscates it after seeing his sister’s name in it. She just so happens to be the object of Evan’s affection but doesn’t know he exists.
A few days later, Conner commits suicide and the letter that Evan wrote is found in his pocket. A web of lies then begins because Conner’s parents obviously want to know who Evan is and he begins to spin a tale of how him and Conner were best friends. This quickly raises his popularity at school with the offset of The Conner Project and, suddenly, Evan exists because of his fake friendship with the kid who just died.
Okay, so the story line isn’t bad, but the writing and staging left a lot to be desired as well as lackluster performances from the cast as a whole. It was interesting to see the phenomenon of everyone instantly becoming “best friends” with someone who just passed. However, the main culprit of this was a girl named Alana and she was SO. FUCKING. ANNOYING. Omg, the scenes with her were just unbearable and I couldn’t stand it.
Another character who really didn’t do it for me was Evan’s mom. It was very tough to invoke sympathy for the mother of a struggling teen when she was so unlikable and all of her slow ballad songs felt lame and drawn out. Honestly, I didn’t feel any type of way about any of the characters because it just felt like they were there saying their lines and singing their songs and then the applause happened and it was on to the next scene. The play felt very disjointed and the flow was off.
A lot of this disconnect felt due to a poor choice in staging. It went from social media news feeds plastered all over moving walls and banners to a tiny room on a rotating circle in a matter of minutes. This felt very high school theater for a Broadway level show and didn’t create any visual interest on stage.
The quality of the script and songs just weren’t that good, either. A powerful message of looking out for the mental health of our teens was overshadowed by plot points that weren’t fully realized and writing that was subpar, at best. I understand that this show got a lot of hype but, frankly, I don’t understand why because I left the theater feeling very unsatisfied with the finale and the plot holes that never got filled.
I never say no to a night at the theater but, I think I could have passed on this one. I would rate Dear Evan Hansen with a five out of ten stars and I can’t say that I would recommend going to see it. If you’re into sappy teen musicals, though, I say go for it!
What were your thoughts on Dear Evan Hansen? What is your favorite musical? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah
Featured Image By: TrustArts