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A tragedy in school may be an opportunity for Evan Hansen to fit in.
The hit Broadway musical comes to London.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 23rd November 2019).
American high schools are a never-ending source of musical theatre stories. This latest is easily the most modern, mixing "social media" with established high school society and current parenting situations and trends into the story of how one socially awkward loner changes the world via some less than truthful stories backed up with faked email.
This show, the monkey suspects, works best if the viewer is either going through this period themselves, has recent memory (i.e. is under around 30 and of a time when not having social media is abnormal) or has contact with that age-group and thus understands that world.
To the monkey, with none of the above, the entire thing was rather venial and vacuous. It had to make enormous leaps of understanding to accept that for the generation depicted their way of dealing with suicide of a class-mate is (to elderly monkey eyes) superficial, artificial and often tasteless. To the young people of course it was as meaningful as the way their elders deal with things. That's fine, settled, the monkey can move on and judge the show on those terms, rather than write a less than understanding 2 star review.
It's a long set-up, and nothing much happens for the first 30 minutes that hasn't been seen (and sometimes done better) before - indeed "Grease" takes a single song. Things kick into gear with the mistaken identity of a letter, and until the final meandering 15 minutes (what, no outrage?) wend a reasonably interesting way with superficial glances at friendship, attraction, time-poor parenting and emotional literacy.
A couple of songs "You Will Be Found" and "Words Fail" give the show a lift, and neither music nor lyric are less than serviceable.
The young (often debut) cast do enough. Marcus Harman is a disturbed Evan, with a strong voice and arc able to play both shy and later confidence. Friend (for pay) Jared (Jack Loxton) is a gross creation, self-deceptive and recognisable. Fellow misfit Alana (Nicole Raquel Dennis) captures perfectly everything the older generation may find wrong with the new one - her credibility of character remarkable. Strong work too from Zoe (Lucy Anderson) in an under-written "sister of the deceased" / "school belle" role that she breaks out of cliché. Deceased brother Connor (Doug Colling) also gets some strong scenes, a capable spectre at his own feast.
The adults, Hansen's mother Heidi (Rebecca McKinnis), Zoe and Connor's warring ones Cynthia (Lauren Ward) and Larry (Rupert Young) are uniformly excellent, again given small roles and often little real presence or gravitas by the script - they excel vocally when required.
A busy set, mostly social media projections on screens and a slightly low-tech forest provide a cyberspace nihilism which fits the show's mood. As an insight into how a new generation thinks, feels and reacts, Dear Evan Hansen hits the spot. As an evening's entertainment for that generation, it should do as well. For those older and unwilling to connect or make the effort to bridge the gap, there's better evenings to be had. Nowhere near the impact of "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" for the monkey, but it can understand the show's cult following among those who will be "at home" with it all.
When my daughter heard that Evan Hansen was on it's way to the West End she was beside herself with excitement and enthusiasm. I was officially the best dad in the world when I got tickets for last night ( 6.11.19 ). We sat in the grand circle row B seats 7 and 8. Fantastic seats, great view. Front of stage slightly difficult to see if people in row A lean forward but not a major problem.
Sadly, we were a little disappointed with the show. Sets were amazing, acting and singing wonderful but it's just a very thin story stretched to breaking point with a very downbeat ending.
I know that most musicals are not gonna win any prizes for their storylines...but most of them at least have a couple of memorable songs. Judging by the raucous applause at the end of each ( remarkably similar ) number, Evan Hansen has a lot of fans...but it just left us thinking 'oh, is that it?'.
I arrived at Noel Coward at 7.30 a.m. and was 5th in the queue. By 8, there were seven of us. All seven were given seats in Row R. For Dear Evan Hansen, there was no problem with the overhang. I don’t know what happened to the ten who arrived after us. There was an announcement that standing room was also available and that there were £5 seats with a totally restricted view. Lovely for the vision impaired!
The average age of the audience in the stalls was about 25, an enthusiastic younger crowd. Standing ovation began second prior to the curtain call.
Dear Evan Hansen is a bit of a Curate's Egg.
The songs? Instantly forgettable (which is odd, as when I first heard a couple of them on the radio, they're what made me want to see the show)
The plot? Now that I get. Someone with social difficulties and clearly some form of anxiety issues accidentally gets into a situation they're not equipped to deal with. How he is taken on board as a surrogate son, again perfectly believable.
The cynical response by Evan's cousin Jared and the overwhelming leaping on board and overtaking the project by ‘acquaintance gatherer’ Alana? I can see that too. There is always someone who will take advantage of a situation and when suddenly presented with the chance to make "friends" rather than "strong acquaintances", I can see how a social outcast like Alana would jump at the chance.
The backdrop was also a bit bewildering. I really liked the central ‘forest’ of screens… but these were let down by the very low-fi sidescreens (unless this was a deliberate move to represent the volume of peripheral traffic on the internet).
I wonder if it would make a better play than a musical? Without the songs, it would give it more time to explore the relationships (especially between Evan and his mother). There is a book (which I own, not read yet), which I guess will do what I'm suggesting. A tightly-scripted 90 minute play would have allowed for a stronger inspection of loneliness (lets face it, every character in this play is alone, from social inhibitions to alone with the framework of a collapsing marriage).
I have heard the conclusion doubted in some quarters. Without giving the game away, it made sense to me. That something could come out of a tragedy would be enough to hold tongues and push on. But there would be losses at a personal level.
All the cast give strong performances (the parents all making the most of their limited stage time and material), but I must give special praise Sam Tutty. All twitches and social awkwardness initially, becoming more confident as he gains the acceptance of Connor's family, he hit the right emotional notes every time. Hell of an achievement for someone who has recently left drama school (even if it is Italia Conti!)
I'd give Dear Evan Hansen a solid 3.5 out of 5. It passed my "Did I enjoy it" test, but failed "Would I pay to see it again".
Accompanied by two word perfect teenagers meant that the anticipation levels were high before we even set foot in the theatre. Fortunately though, the show lived up to expectations.
From the outset newcomer, Sam Tutty, was endearing, engaging with his anxious ticks and stumbling words which meant that when he sang - beautifully, powerfully - it was all the more impressive.
The simple set was alive with projections of words and social media and that, along with the lighting was a fascination in itself. The show stopper ‘You will be found’ was surprisingly affecting - partly because of the performances, partly the song itself and partly the theatrical spectacle.
Great performances all round (notably from Rebecca McKinnis as Evan’s mum) meaning there was enough interest in the adult characters to lift this beyond a teenager’s show.
It helped to have heard the soundtrack in advance and I left feeling unexpectedly moved.
Saw it from AA27 (side slips) of the Grand Circle. These are restricted view seats, you have to lean forward, but you have quite a clear view of the stage missing probably 15% of the stage. A real bargain at £15! (3/5 show btw).
Balcony B23: Came with a warning about restricted view because of handrail - the handrail was annoying but not too much of a nuisance (and very little of the stage was lost). If the person in row A in front of you decides to lean to their left to get around the handrail in their line of sight, this will block you. However, the seat is very high so unless you are very tall, you will be swinging your legs (or using the step to the side as a foot rest, as I did) and/or risking kicking people in row A in the head. it’s probably more a warning to those who value their heads than people who can’t reach the ground. The balcony is very high up and steep, so not recommended if you don't like heights.
Separately, they've put in place this one way system so that everyone keeps to their row to get in or out - I wanted an ice cream but being at the farthest end of the row meant having to walk all the way along the row to get out, and then all the way back to get in, and I really couldn't be bothered. Not sure if it's always been like that, but it doesn't seem like the best solution. Couldn't see whether there was an actual aisle at the top or anything.
Dear Evan Hansen, Noel Coward Theatre, December 2021
Seats, Balcony, AA12-AA13
I would say for the price of £15, the seats on the whole were great value. In both seats you cannot see a chunk of the front left of the stage (if you were in AA14 upwards this would be even worse), but you can hear everything fine, and for the few bits you can't see when the action is here, it's obvious what's happening, so you don't miss out, and as long as everyone in the row leans forward, you can peer over the safety rail and see, without blocking others' views. Leg room is horrendous for anyone of any size, and we were very thankful for the interval to have a stretch. You are pinned in, and have to walk through an entire row, then an extra bit of Row A to get to the seats, so if you have a weak bladder, I'd recommend a different seat, as getting in/out is a pretty arduous and very inconvenient effort if everybody is seated! But bear this in mind and plan liquid intake wisely, and for £15, they're not to be sniffed at!
Royal Circle, Row D, Seats 5/6/7.
In a relatively small theatre these seats do not feel as remote from the stage as in some, and, with just 8 rows in the Royal Circle the actors' features and expressions remained clearly visible.
Seat 5 was a little uncomfortable as cushioning was slightly lacking, but with a clear view (thanks to the more than adequate rake), decent legroom (5’10”) and close proximity to the main entrance I would say these are some of the best Royal Circle seats I’ve experienced.
Note : Having previously seen this show from the stalls (My go-to seating preference), I now realise that this show's viewing experience is far better from any of the circles, due to the many stage floor projections.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday to Friday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours 40 minutes approximately.
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