Dear Evan Hansen puts teen angst in the spotlight


Anthony Norman as Evan Hansen,All photos by Evan Zimmerman.
Anthony Norman as Evan Hansen, (All photos by Evan Zimmerman).

Highly Recommended

In “Dear Evan Hansen,” a lonely, high school senior gets in way over his head when another student, Connor Murphy, takes his own life. Through a series of misunderstandings, a letter that Evan Hansen writes to himself becomes mistaken for Connor’s suicide note and Evan becomes a high school hero and a comfort to the boys’ grieving family.

Evan’s mother must deal with her son’s issues as well as her own as a single mom who has a full schedule of work and school. From Evan’s perspective, she is never there for him.

Instead, he finds solace in Connor’s family as a surrogate family he doesn’t have. And Connor’s sister, Zoe? That’s his crush.

Evan finally has a chance to fit in. But it’s all based on a lie. What happens when the truth comes out?

The musical, which first premiered in 2016, takes the audience on a journey of what it’s like to be a teen during the social media era. Continually flashing on stage are feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, showcasing the immediacy of social media and its impact.

Anthony Norman, John Hemphill, Lili Thomas and Alaina Anderson in the touring musical "Dear Evan Hansen" at the Nederlander Theatre
Anthony Norman, John Hemphill, Lili Thomas and Alaina Anderson in the touring musical “Dear Evan Hansen” at the Nederlander Theatre

Featuring a book by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson (Fosse/Verdon), a score by Grammy®, Tony® and Academy Award®-winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman), and direction by four-time Tony Award-nominee Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal), “Dear Evan Hansen” sheds light on the continuing issues of mental health.

The show went on to win six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and numerous other awards.

The haunting music celebrates such songs as, “You Will Be Found,” “Words Fail,” and “So Big, So Small.”

The revolving set is simple with the orchestra playing at the top of the set. 

Starring as Evan Hansen is Chicagoan Anthony Norman who is stellar. His physical movements, pained expressions, and socially awkward conversations plant the audience firmly in his head.  Yet, we can see how Evan matures from this entire experience, changing him for the better.

Anthony Norman (with Alaina Anderson) in Dear Evan Hansen.
Anthony Norman (with Alaina Anderson) in Dear Evan Hansen.

Coleen Sexton as his mother, Heidi, is excellent with her own angst that she both defies and embraces. Her voice is powerful and memorable.

It was gratifying to see that Connor Murphy, played by the outstanding Nikhil Saboo, maintained a presence throughout the play, showcasing his legacy.

Kudos for the innovative projection design by Peter Nigrini showing the impact of social media on all our lives.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a play that will stay with you long after the final applause.

Details: Dear Evan Hansen is at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago through December 31. For tickets and more information, visit or Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Around Town updates Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen


'"Hamilton" closed in chicago in January 2020 (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago and 'Hamilton.')
“Hamilton” closed in Chicago in January 2020. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago and ‘Hamilton.’)


A tweet from Lin-Manuel Miranda recently showed up in my email box. The famed composer/actor of the Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” tweeted that he’s “excited” because the show will be streaming on Disney Plus on July 3.

The move to the Fourth of July weekend from its originally scheduled release in movie theaters, October 2021, was a Disney decision prompted by stay-at-home orders to keep people safe from the coronavirus and a chance to direct home viewers to Disney Plus offerings.

The film features footage from a June 2016 Broadway “Hamilton” performance that stars Miranda as Alexander Hamilton with the original cast.

In a recently released statement, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger said, “In light of the extraordinary challenges facing our world, this story about leadership, tenacity, hope, love and the power of people to unite against the forces of adversity is both relevant and impactful.”

Iger and Miranda had also announced and talked about the timing on “Good Morning America” on May 12.


The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)
The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)

Chicago theater audiences will have to wait until 2022 for the Tony Award winning “Dear Evan Hansen” to return to the Broadway in Chicago schedule. Originally planned for the CIBC Theatre on July 7 through Sept. 27, 2020, it has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns and state and city orders. A new date will be announced.

Several Broadway in Chicago touring productions have been rescheduled so new information continues to be announced.

Regarding “Dear Evan” Broadway in Chicago has said that ticketholders and individual ticket buyers will be refunded via their point of purchase. Their announcement included the following directions: If you purchased through Ticketmaster, click here for more information and if you purchased through the box office, email Broadway In Chicago at CustomerService/.

Jodie Jacobs


Hamilton is worth the hype

Hamilton leaves Chicago

Dear Evan Hansen


‘Dear Evan mixes great songs with needy plot

The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)
The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)

3 1/2 stars

It’s not breaking news that teenagers experience angst in high school from parental to peer pressure and from wanting to fit in to having a best friend and from feeling insecure or inadequate to not knowing how to express one’s self or experiencing bouts of depression. In addition there are teens on drugs, troubled teens and teens contemplating suicide.

It’s also not breaking news that actions go viral because someone is always around snapping and recording on a cell phone or that some of the so called stories out there are “fake news.”

Add to the mix that either teenagers think their parents don’t understand them or that they want something from them they are not able to manage. There is also the issue of parents who are so busy with other aspects of life that they are not around when needed.

In the hands of songwriters Ben Pasek and Justin Paul (who later did “La La Land”) and playwright Steven Levenson (Days of Rage) those issues coalesce in the Broadway hit musical, “Dear Evan Hansen,” directed by Michael Greif (“Rent,” “Next to Normal”).

There have been a lot of shows that deal with family problems but what seemed to set this one apart upon seeing it when the national tour hit Chicago this week, were the extraordinary songs that expressed Evan’s wistful feelings such as “You Will Be Found,” Waving Through a Window and “For Forever.” Evan’s mom, Heidi who after her husband left them, works and goes to class so is seldom around, also gets her heart wrenching song, “So Big, So Small.”

Continue reading “‘Dear Evan mixes great songs with needy plot”