WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHERE? Music Box Theatre RUN TIME: 2 hours 40 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
WHEN?: 2/11, booking to 13/7/19
Last year songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul won the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Original Song for City Of Stars from La La Land.
- Read on for reasons including why this will be a smash West End hit when it bursts into London
This year their score for surprise hit film The Greatest Showman has been so successful that stars including Pink contribute to a follow up album re-interpretations of the soundtrack called The Greatest Showman: Re-Imagined out 16/11/18.
Pasek and Paul also wrote the memorable book and lyrics for Dear Evan Hansen which won 6 Tonys and opens in the West End at the Noel Coward Theatre in autumn 2019.
Its theme couldn’t be more relevant to the UK in 2018: the mental health pressures on young people exacerbated by the proliferation of social media.
We meet depressed teenager Evan Hansen who is asked by his mother to write a letter to himself explaining why today will be a good day. It falls into the hands of friendless bully Connor Murphy who commits suicide and his grieving classmates assume the letter in his possession was actually a note to his only friend.
Hansen is in love with Murphy’s sister and perpetuates the lie that he was his classmate’s friend to comfort both the object of his affection and her grieving parents.
Now this doesn’t sound like the sort of material that would merit the success it has achieved but the same could be said of Pasek and Paul’s previous hit Dogfight (plot: marines compete to bring the ugliest date to a party).
What lifts it are the catchy songs on a par with their best work: we love the humour of both Sincerely Me, If I Could Tell Her? and the joy of For Forever.
We’ve been listening to the score for almost a year and, although we had a passing knowledge of the plot, we were still surprised by exactly how this played out. The tricksy resolution – no spoilers! – was handled believably and we could hear afterwards as the audience made its way home that it had pleased them.
If Everybody’s Talking About Jamie finds its way to Broadway as is rumoured, we could understand an argument for transferring the location from the UK to the US but feel Dear Evan Hansen would work with its US setting on the West End.
We’re not quite giving Dear Evan Hansen 5* because, for us, the quality of the songs dips in the 2nd half but it’s an important story to tell at this time and it’s going to be a smash West End when it bursts into London.