Review: Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre, London

Dear Evan Hansen stars Sam Tutty (centre) as a depressed, isolated teenager in the latest musical to hit the west end (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Dear Evan Hansen

Noël Coward Theatre, London

Director: Michael Greif

Starring: Sam Tutty, Lucy Anderson, Doug Colling, Rebecca McKinnis, Lauren Ward, Rupert Young, Jack Loxton and Nicole Raquel Dennis

By Lauren Codling

BIG THINGS were expected from the multiple Tony award winning show Dear Evan Hansen as it premiered in London’s west end this month.

Centralising on an anxiety-ridden teenager whose life is turned upside down after he becomes caught up in a lie, the musical has been applauded for its emotive score and the handling of its delicate subject matter.

As the Broadway smash transfers across the pond, its safe to say that London audiences will not be disappointed.

The cast includes (L-R) Sam Tutty (Evan Hansen), Rupert Young (Larry Murphy), Lauren Ward (Cynthia Murphy) and Lucy Anderson (Zoe Murphy)

It is a beautiful and honest portrayal of a lonely, socially awkward boy who deceives his way into a grieving family dynamic. The production is one of the few musicals which speaks to the modern audience – it is refreshing to witness key themes related to social media, suicide and teen angst take centre stage in one of London’s most prestigious theatres.

Starring in his west end debut, actor Sam Tutty is startling as Evan. Visibly nervous and uncomfortable in his skin throughout, Tutty plays the part of the isolated adolescent to perfection. Triggering empathy toward a character whose ill-advised decisions have the potential to cause turmoil is a difficult feat, but Tutty and the writing team pull it off with ease.

The rest of the cast are strong, but Rebecca McKinnis’s portrayal of Evan’s mother is an additional stand-out performance. Despite her attempts to support her son battle his mental-health problems, it is heart-breaking to see the distance between them widen as she becomes oblivious to the truth behind his new-found confidence.

Rebecca McKinnis (right) plays the role of Evan’s mother Heidi Hansen

Social media is a character in itself, splattered across the set for the majority of the running time. It is a constant reminder of the influence that it can have on everyday life – sometimes overwhelming, all-consuming and familiar to many.

Although some songs aren’t as memorable as others, it has its standouts. You Will Be Found provides a soaring end to the first act while Words Fail is sure to trigger some tears from audience members as we witness Evan’s world crumble around him.

The finale provides a satisfying conclusion, although the consequences of Evan’s actions are not laid out explicitly. It is typical that a musical ends on a high note – but it seems unrealistic that Evan would have felt such minimal backlash from his extravagant lie.

It is a powerful, thought-provoking production which is sure to speak to audiences – both young and old. For anyone who ever felt they didn’t fit in growing up, Dear Evan Hansen is the musical for you.

We give Dear Evan Hansen four and a half out of five stars.

Dear Evan Hansen is now booking to 2 May 2020