Touring cast of "Dear Evan Hansen." Credit: Matthew Murphy
“Dear Evan Hansen,” on stage now at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, tells the story of two teenage boys with mental illness, their families and what happens when their worlds unexpectedly collide. There’s a mysterious note, a tragic death and a little white lie that all spiral out of control.
The show follows Evan, a lonely and struggling high school student, as he returns for his first day of school. Encouraged by his mother and his therapist to write letters to himself, Evan writes a note that ends up in the hands of another outcast student, Connor Murphy. Mentioned in the note is Connor’s sister, Zoe, a girl that Evan has a crush on. Angered by the note’s contents, Connor keeps it.
Days later, when Connor dies by suicide, the note is found in his pocket and Connor’s family misinterprets the letter as his suicide note. The family believes that because the note was addressed to Evan, the boys were friends.
What ensues is both tragic and comical at times, as Evan, his friends and the Murphy family all explore their own pain, grief and loneliness through the lens of Connor’s death — and Evan’s lie.
The musical, which is nearly sold out for its local run through Feb. 2, has collected six Tony Awards and a Grammy Award. “Dear Evan Hansen" is based on a book by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson. It was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”), who together are Academy Award, Golden Globe and Tony Award winners. It’s directed by Tony Award nominee Michael Greif (“Rent,” “Next to Normal”).
The bottom line
For adults, “Dear Evan Hansen” is a must-see production. From the band to the cast to the set to the storyline, this show soars. Stephen Christopher Anthony’s performance in the title role is particularly stellar. Anthony brings a depth to Evan’s pain that felt raw and real. Maggie McKenna (Zoe Murphy), with her incredible voice, delivers a highly emotional and electrifying performance that, to me, stole the show. The set stunned, too, and the band quite simply rocked.
For teens and parents, this show is relatable. Its portrayal of the painful realities of love and loss in parent/child relationships felt heartbreakingly real. The show’s complex character development — and even its set — felt like an indictment of the challenges of living in our ultra-connected world.
Larger-than-life screens tower over the characters on stage, projecting and amplifying messages at times, and obscuring them at other times. The screens and messages both isolate and insulate characters from one another. The effect serves as a poignant reminder of how difficult it can be for teens (for all of us, really) to navigate truth, belonging and real connection — both online and off.
Parents should know
- I found the show very intense. It deals with issues of anxiety, depression, grief and suicide. It also includes adult language, mature sexual language and a few mild sexual gestures. Though it ends on a hopeful note, I personally felt emotionally wrecked by the difficult topics. With this in mind, I recommend this show for teens and adults, not younger kids. Even for older kids — sensitive ones, especially — parents will want to be prepared to discuss what they’ll see both before and after the show.
- The show runs 2 hours and 30 minutes, with a short intermission midway through.
- The lobby has concessions and snacks, including alcoholic beverages.
- If you’re bringing kids, or you’re sure to need a restroom break, consider picking a seat that allows you to exit the theater easily for bathroom breaks. The short intermission isn’t enough time to make it to the restroom given the extremely long lines.
If you go…
When: “Dear Evan Hansen” plays through Feb. 2. Tickets are selling out fast. There is a digital lottery in which you can try your luck. (Upcoming tour cities include Des Moines, Iowa and Chicago, Ill.)
Where: Find The Paramount Theatre at 911 Pine St., Seattle.
Tickets: Buy online or in person at The Paramount Theatre’s box office (Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.). Prices are listed at $25 and up, but remaining tickets look to be upwards of $100 per seat.
Parking: Several garages and pay lots are located near the theater, though street parking and surface lots, if you can find space, make for a quicker getaway vs. a multi-level parking garage. Consider transit, taxi or ride-hailing if you want to avoid parking hassles.