Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Amazing Day' Takes Unusual Twists, Turns

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Amazing Day' Takes Unusual Twists, Turns

Article excerpt

The title is simple, but "Dear Evan Hansen," at the Second Stage Theatre, is a complicated musical, which evokes complex reactions.

Its basic outline is clear and resonant.

Evan (an affecting Ben Platt, from the "Pitch Perfect" films) is a socially hobbled high school senior. He's pathologically insecure, unable to look people in the eye or speak a sentence without apologizing for himself.

Through a series of circumstances, he's forced outside his restricted life and transformed into an engaged young man on a mission, which leaves him permanently changed.

In telling this tale, book writer Steven Levenson and songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have put their ambition out there.

The plot is elaborate; the tone is serious, but with doses of comedy; the personal story delves into the varieties of parent- child relationships, and also widens to a consideration of the range and power of the Internet. And there's also a sweet romantic relationship.

The evening, directed with emotional energy by Michael Greif ("Rent," "Next to Normal"), begins with Evan writing a letter to himself, an exercise suggested by his psychotherapist to increase self-esteem.

"Dear Evan Hansen," he begins. "Today is going to be an amazing day, and here's why. Because today, all you have to do is just be yourself."

At school, he prints out the letter, intending to bring it with him to his therapy session, but neglectfully (and not quite believably) leaves it at the printing machine, where it's snatched by another troubled teen, Connor Murphy (Mike Faist), a drug- taking, friendless bully, on whose sister, Zoe (an appealing Laura Dreyfuss), Evan has a big crush.

Connor later kills himself, and Evan's letter, found in his pocket, is taken as a suicide note, written to Evan, presumed to be his best friend.

That leads to deception by circumstance, with Evan, spurred and abetted by two comically drawn schoolmates (Kristolyn Lloyd and Will Roland), drawn into becoming the keeper of Connor's flame. …

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