DEAR EVAN HANSEN at Times Union Center For The Performing Arts

Dear Jacksonville, this week is going to be a great week. And here’s why because Dear Evan Hansen stop here this week! The incredibly heartbreaking and beautiful show follows the story of Evan Hansen, a high school student who struggles with anxiety and doesn’t seem to “fit in”. Evan wants to make his senior year a good year to please his mom, but also to feel like he belongs. However, when a letter he writes to himself gets into the wrong hands, it becomes a very messy situation in which someone’s little lie becomes a complete mess. The Jacksonville audience at the opening performance was in awe of the show, laughter heard from the much-needed comic relief, and many tears and sniffles heard throughout the theater.

“Words Fail” accurately describes the incredible talent of main man, Evan Hansen (Stephen Christopher Anthony). Not only does he play the awkward, anxious high school boy stereotypically, but in a completely relatable way. Anthony brought tears to my eyes, as well as my face mask and shirt, in his performances of “For Forever”, “You Will Be Found” and “Words Fail”. Anthony was born to play the role of Evan Hansen.

The company was also spectacular. Evan’s love interest, Zoe Murphy (Stephanie La Rochelle), was wonderful. Audiences watched the character grow up feeling annoyed by her brother, conflicted about losing her sibling, having feelings for a boy she didn’t know existed, and then discovering much of what she knew to be a lie. This was displayed in “Requiem” in which the Murphys all mourn in their own way. Larry Murphy (John Hemphill) and Cynthia Murphy (Claire Rankin) did a terrific job playing parents struggling to communicate after the loss of their son. One of the moments I couldn’t hold back my tears was when Larry Murphy (Hemphill) realized the impact of losing his son. He is finally allowed to break through his emotional walls and feel the loss he is experiencing. Cynthia Murphy (Claire Rankin) has done a great job as a mother desperately seeking help for her son, and then as a grieving mother trying to make sense of the tragedy. She did her best in the opening number “Anyone Got A Card?” Another character who stood out in the opening number was Heidi Hansen (Jessica E Sherman). Sherman plays a single mother, working as a caregiver and going to school at night to become a paralegal, causing her to miss moments with her son. It’s obvious to the audience that she feels guilty for everything she misses, but communicates it by constantly trying to find out about Evan’s life and push him to get better. Sherman’s finest number was in “So Big/So Small”.

Evan’s “friends” were also wonderful in their roles. Jared Kleinman (Alessandro Costantini) was the comic relief audiences needed. He was the typical high school kid with inappropriate jokes. Alana Beck (Ciara Alyse Harris) was the stereotypical overachiever people knew in high school, trying to get the most service hours, the best grades, and the most extracurricular activities over her classmates. Harris’ voice was amazing, especially in “Waving Through a Window”. I enjoyed how the gifted who tries to please and impress everyone expressed how lonely she felt even with so many people around her. Finally, the man who created the chaos, Connor Murphy (Nikhil Saboo) was perfect as a moody, lonely kid.

Dear Evan Hansen is a wonderful and timely show with a beautiful message that you are seen, you are heard, “You will be found.” The musical will take place at the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts presented by FSCJ Artist Series through January 30.