Dear Evan Hansen is a powerful new musical about mental health, family, and communication in the digital age. The story unfolds around an awkward, shy teenager named Evan, who is thrust into the spotlight after a classmate’s unexpected death and is struggling with the secret truth behind it.
Following its opening on Broadway in 2016, the production has won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
This winter, Broadway San Diego brings the national tour to the Civic Theatre. It’s a homecoming of sorts for director Michael Greif, who attended UC San Diego’s graduate directing program and served as artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1994 to 1999. The four-time Tony Award nominee is known for taking risks and pushing the boundaries of American musical theater. His credits include the original Broadway productions of Rent, Next to Normal, and Grey Gardens. In a world of jazz hands, Greif is giving audiences, well, grief.
"Hair, Runaways, and A Chorus Line were musicals that deeply affected me growing up," the director says, explaining the genesis of his career.
Dear Evan Hansen is cast from the same mold. With its emotional subject matter (book by Steven Levenson) and hauntingly beautiful score (music and lyrics by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul), the production offers an honest look at teenage suicide and social media.
Greif and the writers intentionally kept the cast to just eight people so each character is essential to the storytelling. At the same time, the show uses a "virtual community" presented on floor-to-ceiling screens across the stage.
The result is a thoroughly modern and moving theatrical experience. Its "virtual choir" YouTube video, "You Will Be Found," is a growing phenomenon, with 31 countries contributing and reinforcing the theme that "every voice matters."
While reaching droves of younger theatergoers and raising awareness about mental health are two of the show’s important outcomes, Greif is most moved by the story’s theme of generosity and forgiveness.
"I hope it will help everyone to be more forgiving," he says.
December 31–January 12, 1100 Third Avenue, Downtown broadwaysd