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“Dear Evan Hansen” shows teenage grief in the social media era

Each generation has its own set of anxieties and tribulations, all urgently cataloged by the pop music writers of the time. “Dear Evan Hansen” is one of the first Broadway musicals to delve into the loneliness and despair of the digital age and the tribute it may demand of teenagers and their parents who are sometimes absent and wavering.

“Dear Evan” – a story of suicide, emotional chaos, young love and storm on social media that occurs when a letter falls into the wrong hands – arrived at Fox Theater this week for its first run in Atlanta, broken hearts, nerves thunderous and spreading his admonition story with an urgent sound.

With the participation of benevolent Ben Levi Ross as a tortured soul Evan and with the wonderfully articulated songs of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the show that wiped out the 2017 Tonys, winning six, is one of the hottest tickets of the Atlanta theater season . For the most part, it doesn’t disappoint.

To reveal too much of the plot means to risk ruining everything. Sharing too little means confusing the material and confusing the reader. Proceed with caution.

At first we see that Evan has difficulty coping with the social mechanisms of life and high school. His therapist advised him to write epistles for himself, emphasizing the positive nature of everyday events. When Evan takes a sad note of his feelings of invisibility and his love for Zoe (Maggie McKenna), he falls into the hands of Zoe’s addictive and bad-tempered brother, Connor (Marrick Smith) of short duration.

The next thing you know, Zoe and Connor’s parents, Larry and Cynthia Murphy (Aaron Lazar and Christiane Noll), attacked Evan for clues to Connor’s suicide, as it would appear from the “Dear Evan Hansen” letter that Evan and Connor they were the best of friends, if not more.

While Evan could have lifted the Murphys out of their desperate and misplaced fantasy, he plays together and one mastery leads to another.


Classmate Snarky Jared (Jared Goldsmith) is recruited as an accomplice to Evan. Alana (Phoebe Koyabe), an egocentric classmate looking for a cause, suddenly finds one in the powerful tale of Evan and Connor. And a campaign on social media to raise awareness of teenage suicide and rehabilitate an apple orchard where friends are supposed to be hanging around illuminating the Internet.

When Evan’s little lie becomes big and viral, he is suddenly getting the end of the kindness, love and worship that previously eluded him.

Suffice it to say that things don’t end happy. Or them?

In Evan, the Murphys find a surrogate son. In the Murphys, Evan, who had been abandoned by his father when he was young and was unwittingly overlooked by his sweet and hardworking mother, Heidi (Jessica Phillips), finds the support and nourishment he craves. And Alana, who helps understand the unconscious digital blitz that is based on a fiction, gets a reason for being.

My problem with Steven Levenson’s book (the details of which are now overloaded) is that it puts a strain on the limits of common sense. There are too many holes in Evan’s story, red flags all over the place, but the characters apparently don’t want to see the truth.

The positive side is the suspense to bite. There is comedy in the form of embarrassing, aggressive and crafty teenagers. There is a slow, steaming flame in Evan and Zoe’s strange, morbid courtship. (By the way, McKenna is surprisingly good as a wise young woman beyond her years. Her Zoe is intelligent, practical and probably the freest member of the group.)

And there is a masterful design, in the form of video projections (by Peter Nigrini) that describe the frenzy of social media that guides the action. (The sets are by David Korins, costumes by Emily Rebholz, lights by Japhy Weideman, sounds by Nevin Steinberg.)

But deep down, “Dear Evan Hansen” is a profound and devastating display of terror at work in the soul of dear Evan Hansen. A shattered scarecrow of a child is sucked into a private tragedy not of his own creation, only to find that he is so ill-equipped to handle the situation that invents another type of crisis and very public.

In the end, this difficult and provocative musical becomes a lesson in love, redemption and forgiveness, although the path to healing is full of pain. “Dear Evan Hansen” has the ability to tear you apart and somehow make you grateful for the bruises. It will take your breath away. No lie.


“Dear Evan Hansen”

20:00 April 26 and April 27. 14:00 April 27. 13:00 and 18:30 April 28th. Until April 28. $ 59- $ 249. Very few tickets left. Broadway to Atlanta, Fox Theater, 660 Peachtree St., Atlanta; 855-285-8499; foxtheatre.org

Bottom line: riveting