Review of Dear Evan Hansen at Proctors
by Katie Beltramo
Dear Evan Hansen, winner of six TONY® awards including Best Musical, is playing at Proctors through March 27. It is a deeply emotional musical about a lonely high schooler who finds a sense of belonging in the wake of a tragedy and a profound misunderstanding.
Evan Hansen writes himself a letter as suggested by his therapist, but it's later discovered with a classmate who has died by suicide. The grieving family takes some comfort in their assumption that the two boys were friends, and a flummoxed Evan first fails to explain, then embraces the fiction, and it soon explodes far beyond his control. The story, as you can guess, is heavy, although it's lightened with shots of humor, like the sone "Sincerely Me" in which Evan and another student compose fake emails illustrating Evan's "secret friendship" with all the high school boy-style insinuations that that phrase provokes.
This musical has a lot to say about how nearly everyone can feel uncertain, like the moms singing "Anybody Have a Map?" as well as profoundly disconnected and alone, as demonstrated in Evan and the company's "Waving Through a Window." The characters are all seeking connection, and Evan becomes the unlikely optimistic spokesperson that connections are possible with his assurance to his community that "You Will Be Found." Of course, the message of the musical goes beyond Evan and his community, and while the plot of the musical hinges on Evan's message going viral, it's become the motto of the musical itself and has spread, including worldwide fans singing along.
This show offers a jumping off point for a vast array of discussions with your teen beyond the topics of friendships, bullying, belonging, and social media that are apparent from that brief description. The two moms in the story are set as opposites: the working class mom who cares but barely finds time to check in between her job and night classes vs the wealthy mom who plunges into trendy fixes over deep connection. While there is sympathy for these portrayals, one couldn't call them flattering. There are songs devoted to parent-child relationships as Evan connects with his own mom and with Connor's dad, who steps in as a surrogate dad for Evan. There is a romance that's sweet but based on a lie that makes it ethically suspect.
The performances and the voices were terrific. I particularly loved Zoe's sweet voice, and I was so impressed by how Evan and Heidi, his mom, expressed so much profound emotion while hitting all their notes. Even Jared, who appeared at first to function entirely as comic relief, could really belt it out. The casts sincerity and desire to connect with their audience really shone through.
I would not bring someone 12 or under to the musical. In addition to some cursing and sexual inuendo, the entire plot has more grief and despair than I'd recommend for young theater goers. This musical is so dense with emotion that I really wouldn't feel comfortable taking my middle- or high-schooler to see it without planning to talk about it afterwards. That said, it could inspire some great talks.
Dear Evan Hansen is playing at Proctors, Schenectady, from Tuesday, March 22 to Sunday, March 27 at Proctors. Masking is required. For schedule and ticket information, call 581-346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
Photos provided by Proctors.
© 2022 Katie Beltramo.
Katie Beltramo, a mom of two, is communication director at Kids Out and About and blogs at Capital District Fun.