Before I jump into this review, I just wanted to say I was ecstatic to see Jeffrey Cornelius outside, as he was returning to the Forrest Theatre. I was so excited thinking he was going to perform this evening. Cornelius is on the tour as the understudy, but is currently performing as Evan Hansen at the matinee performances.
Anthony Norman did an outstanding job as Evan Hansen. The acting was on a completely different level from the first scene. Hearing his tones, inflections, laughing snorts, mumblings and anxiety based words I became engrossed wondering how many people are suffering in silence. Not because no one is aware of their issues. Evan Hansen was seeing a psychologist and his mom was keenly aware of his anxiety, but how many simply walked by him in a given day. Even his self described best friend acknowledged they were “friends” but “family friends”.
Inspired by real life experiences, the cast and stage production amplified the emotion behind the story. The actors were able to turn the tragedy of a young man into a learning opportunity and remind us that “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”. It is an important message for all as people often crave popularity and appreciation. High schoolers are not the only ones who want to be seen and understood. This blind spot of existence lies the seeds for self doubt and uncertainty. Some individuals truly struggle with those horrid feelings of worthlessness, leading to considering it is better not to be alive.
Evan Hansen was in a similar position as Connor (Nihkil Saboo) and somehow comes to life through this tragic event. The thing is, you can only fake who you are for so long. Eventually something will happen that will force your true self to be revealed. You could feel and experience the trials of managing what it's like to be a seen person for the first time in his life. The thing that struck me, that really tugged at my emotion, is seeing the impact of suicide on those left behind. The entire cast experienced the death of a family member and real close acquaintance differently. For me, the two mothers shared the true feelings.
Although Heidi Hansen (Coleen Sexton),knew her son was struggling, she could have never imagined the things Evan would do to substitute for that feeling of family. She had no understanding how significant his life was impacted from his father abandoning them to not having a single friend as he entered his senior year in high school. From the opposing side, Cynthia Murphy, (Lili Thomas) was longing for memories of a son gone. Knowing those memories she longed for would never come true. She created and encouraged an environment to help her family manage the most difficult thing they have ever faced.
You can't help but feel a tug in your chest as you with the stories unfold. The acting was superb and with the music, singing and stage theatrics, it became a memorable experience that I strongly recommend you attend.
My favorite part of any musical is when I can get a behind the scene look at what the characters are experiencing and what they want viewers to walk away with. The video below shows the discussion held with Nickel Saboo (Connor Murphy) and Micaela Lamas (Alana Beck)
Show Run Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes with intermission
Age Recommendation: Ages 12 and up.
Catch the Philly tour before it leaves on August 28th