The new original musical "Dear Evan Hansen" just opened off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre after a celebrated run in Washington D.C. last summer. NY1 theater critic Roma Torre filed the following review.
Oh the high school years. For any family, it is a rite of passage that is awkward at best - torturous at worst. That most turbulent phase of adolescence is the focus of "Dear Evan Hansen," a sensitive and original musical that engagingly captures the good, the bad and the ugly in the life of an American teenager at home and school.
Ben Platt plays the title character - an anxiety-ridden, socially inept, insecure high school senior - with tremendous nuance. He is that nerd we all knew in high school, and the performance makes us wish we had gotten to know him better. But of course kids being kids, sensitivity is seldom part of the equation, and poor Evan just wants to disappear. But then a quirk of fate and a well-intentioned lie changes everything, and suddenly Evan is transformed from loser to most popular.
Steven Levenson's plot-heavy book gets deep and dark without losing its sense of humor, a most impressive achievement that is enhanced by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's emotionally charged score.
Both components are outstanding, even while occasionally working against each other. The complex and ambitious story detailing the extreme quirks of teen life is most compelling; and while the songs are beautifully integrated, they can also stall the action. But when it all comes together, the effect is intensely moving.
The production led by Michael Greif could not be better. The set design featuring panels with projections scrolling social media is spot on, and the actors - all of them - burrow under their character's skins and ours, inducing tears and laughter in abundance.
I can't say enough about Ben Platt's bravura performance. In addition to his fine acting chops, this gifted actor has an incredible voice bringing out all the colors in that wonderful score. He leads the excellent company in a show that is truly most dear.