Long-awaited ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ tour stuns at Kravis Center

Perhaps one of the signs of a good “book” from a musical, that is, the spoken dialogue portions of the script, is that it works just as effectively if you remove all of the songs. While no one requests such surgery on “Dear Evan Hansen,” the praise certainly applies. There were many moments in his current tour of Broadway at the Kravis Center where I was so enraptured by the painful, searing and moving emotion exchanged in the theater scenes that I forgot I was watching a musical. It may, in fact, be the best musical comedy book I have ever seen.

Granted, I’m late to the party when it comes to “Dear Evan Hansen,” the winner of six Tony Awards in 2017, a show that has already made much of the country and been adapted into a big movie. Given the poor reception of the 2021 film adaptation – all 30 percent on rotten tomatoes—I’m glad I held out on his Kravis Center debut, enduring all these months of COVID postponements for a show that feels just as vital on the precipice of 2022 as it must have in its debut production of workshop in 2015.

The plot hinges on one of those consequent misinterpretations familiar to the mechanics of lighter, more comedic musicals. The main character (Stephen Christopher Anthony, who wins you over from the first second), a high school student struggling with social anxiety disorder, follows his therapist’s advice to write letters to himself daily in which he reveals his most feelings. intimate. One of those letters ends up in the hands of Connor Murphy (Nikhil Saboo), a struggling classmate with a drug addiction pattern. When Connor commits suicide shortly thereafter, his parents find Evan’s self-directed missive – beginning, as they all do, “Dear Evan Hansen” – among their son’s belongings, and regard it as a suicide note written to , obviously, the only boy in school he felt he could confide in.

Evan, seeing a family devastated by the loss of their child, decides to play along, inventing a posthumously “secret” friendship with Connor, supplemented by elaborate backdated email correspondence. That Evan also finds himself in love with Connor’s sister Zoe (Stephanie Le Rochelle), and that playing the role of Connor’s intimate confidant brings him closer to her, only leads Evan to expand the fiction even further, hallways. from his school to the immensity of the virality of the Internet, with impacts that are both healing and overwhelming and, above all, transformative.

With an extraordinary cast and led crisp and authentically by Michael Grief, this tour delivers the kind of lighting in a bottle that every production hopes for, in the form of humor and pathos, soaring songs and captivating dialogue, an orchestra skillful and innovative stage design. The latter, by David Korins, offers a vision of endless social media scrolls thrown behind the action, a presentation that reflects the overwhelming pervasiveness of this technology in the lives of the characters and in the propulsion of the story.

But most importantly, I return to the book by Steven Levenson, which, in the hands of actors perfectly in tune with his vision, captures three-dimensional characters with a naked vulnerability that is still unusual in a medium rooted in crowd enjoyment. and the surface. skimming. Grieving, anxiety, depression, deep insecurity, and social disconnection are not easy themes to convey in the relatively limited time of a two-and-a-half-hour story arc, but Levenson’s book has the richness. of a novel.

Everyone on “Dear Evan Hansen”, certainly not just Evan and Connor, is seen as a misfit in their own way. They are imperfect people who try to navigate the best they can in a difficult and often cruel world, with choices that are not always optimal. All are worthy of our compassion, our forgiveness, our redemption. “Dear Evan Hansen” is about finding value in everyone, especially those who cannot see it in themselves. I can’t think of a better message to take home and cherish.

“Dear Evan Hansen” runs through Sunday at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost between $ 56 and $ 121. Participants must present proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours. Rapid tests are available on site. Call 561 / 832-7469 or visit kravis.org.

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