Theatre Review: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The Broadway cast of “Dear Even Hansen.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Wow. I had no prior knowledge of “Dear Evan Hansen” before last night when I witnessed it first hand. What I saw was a theatrical event that is near perfect. The story meshed, the music flowed, the acting and singing were spectacular. This musical not only had a great message that is completely topical in 2019, but is one of the only shows that I have seen in years that is completely relatable to every single person in the audience. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. I think this year I have seen at least three shows that have become my “new favorite musical.” This makes number four.

If you have ever felt alone, felt like you were an outcast, or struggled to fit it, ‘You Will Be Found’ in this show. Go see it!

“Dear Evan Hansen” tells the story of a high school wallflower who is just trying to get through his senior year in high school. Starting the school year off with a broken arm, Evan (Ben Levi Ross) is having major anxiety about what the new year will bring. His mother (Jessica Phillips), is a single mom who has to balance work with school and has to try to find time to spend with her son. Their family is far from perfect but you can see the love that she has for Evan, even if he doesn’t always see the love. Evan’s psychologist gives him an assignment to write letters to himself, making each day great and giving himself a confidence boost that he needs to keep going. After a mishap in the school computer lab, one of his letters to himself is intercepted by Connor (Marrick Smith) and happens to be the last piece of evidence found after Connor takes his own life. What ensues for Evan is a whirlwind of difficult situations, a fabricated friendship with a kid who bullied him, inner struggles of doing the right thing, and trying to find himself in high school. All of that leads to everything Evan wanted, a family, friends, and the attention of his crush, Zoe (Maggie McKenna). But, with all the new found excitement, Evan’s conscience begins to haunt him, and the truth needs to come out.

This minimally staged production is creatively performed. Using projection screens, and news feeds, the show engulfs the audience in the digital age of social media. It encapsulates the entire 2019 lifestyle of kids in high school. I love that the set design only incorporated furniture and small props to tell the story, allowing the audience to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.

Leading the cast as Evan is Ben Levi Ross, who emulates the skinny high school nerd with perfection. He is incredibly convincing as this character, incorporating raw emotion into his performance and bringing heart to Evan’s journey. He does not disappoint.

Jared Goldsmith plays Jared Kleinman, Evan’s computer savvy friend who assists in the fabrication of this fake friendship between Evan and Connor. Goldsmith is hilarious. His facial features, mannerisms, and comedic delivery are all fantastic. Every time Goldsmith enters the stage, you are sure to chuckle or have a right out belly laugh.

Jessica Phillips does a wonderful job as Heidi, Evan’s mom. She is instantly relatable to any woman who has had to raise a child on her own, while juggling work and career advancement. She is quirky, she is goofy, and lovable. She too, brings raw emotion to the stage, especially during act two.

Maggie McKenna is a feisty Zoe. She is able to juggle the many emotions that the character brings to the story, and keeps the audience on her side throughout the entire ride.

The entire ensemble of this show is fantastic. Phoebe Koyabe, Aaron Lazar, Christiane Noll, and Marrick Smith, all contribute to this theatrical phenomenon that will be around for a long time.

As the show progressed, I couldn’t help but be reminded of “Next To Normal” and “The Curious Case Of The Dog In The Night-Time.” If these two shows had a love child, it would be “Dear Evan Hansen.” If you have ever felt alone, felt like you were an outcast, or struggled to fit it, ‘You Will Be Found’ in this show. Go see it!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Advisory: Adult Language

“Dear Evan Hansen” runs until May 19, 2019 and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.