Review: Dear Evan Hansen On Stage in the West End (London)

Dear Evan Hansen is a powerful musical performed by a brilliant cast at the Noël Coward Theatre in London. The production isn’t suitable for children due to the mature themes including teen suicide, but this is sensitively covered. It also contains a fair bit of swearing. I received press tickets to last night's performance where the audience laughed, cried, applauded loudly and there was a standing ovation at the end.

a member of staff selling dear evan hansen programmes in london
A review of Dear Evan Hansen

Review of the London West End Performance of Dear Evan Hansen

The production has a lot to live up to including 3 Olivier Awards, 2 WhatsOnStage Awards and a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award. It was written by the song writers behind The Greatest Showman and La La Land so it's not surprising it is highly watchable. 

Today I have been listening to the soundtrack of Dear Evan Hansen from the Broadway production and I think the London cast I saw last night was far better. Obviously I don’t know what the acting was like on Broadway, but I felt the power and emotion in the voices of the West End cast made the characters real and raw. 

It’s hard to single out any of the actors for accolades as all of the performances were strong, but as a mum I obviously resonated with the pain of the mothers: one who has lost a child and another who is trying her hardest as a single parent to give her son (Evan) the best opportunities in life. The characters played by Rebecca McGinnis and Lauren Ward are very different, but both women made my heartache for the characters who love their children and want to do the best for them.

The performance by Sam Tutty as Evan Hansen realistically portrayed teen angst, anxiety, shyness and that sweaty hand feeling teens get around the girl they fancy. The growth in confidence of the character throughout the story is gradual and believable in a way that rarely happens in performances. How many times have you seen a musical where the shy character appears to have a personality transplant every time they open their mouth to sing because they are more focused on sounding good than their character? Sam impressively managed to sing while mumbling and his body language and actions were spot on for a nervous teen. 

The stage set up for the beginning of dear evan hansen in london
The set showing Evan Hansen's bedroom and various screens with social media feeds

The Plot of Dear Evan Hansen

If I were to talk about all the themes in this musical this post would probably be as long as the script. The threads weaved through the story include: suicide, loneliness, teen mental health, first love, family relationships, social media use and lies.

Evan is a 17 year old social outcast with anxiety and his therapist has tried to encourage him to become more positive by writing himself letters starting “Dear Evan Hansen, this is gonna be a good day and here's why”. He struggles to write the letters so quickly finishes one after school in the computer lab before a therapist appointment, except it has been a bad day so the letter isn’t very positive. He prints it out and Connor finds the letter on the printer. Connor realises the letter talks about his sister (who Evan fancies) so he takes the letter and storms off. Several days later it turns out Connor has killed himself and because he had Evan’s letter on him when he died his parents assume it was a suicide note written to Evan (rather than by him) and that Evan was a friend. Evan doesn’t want to upset the grieving parents any more than they already are so he starts a web of lies.

The musical explores the feelings of the grieving family, teens wanting to be noticed and Evan Hansen finally fitting in and getting opportunities he wouldn’t have otherwise if not for the lies and his growing confidence (including a relationship with Connor’s sister). Like any situation in the modern world the use of the internet and social media is woven through enabling teens to reach others, but also helping to fabricate an alternative reality showing that the digital world can be harmful as well as good.

The outside of noel coward theatre london at night
Dear Evan Hansen is booking at Noël Coward Theatre, London until October

What else you need to know about Dear Evan Hansen

This musical is not suitable for children under 12 (as advised by the theatre) but if you are comfortable with your teens hearing swearing (there is a fair bit of it) and mature issues I think many older teens would enjoy it and it would be a good conversation starter about many of the issues raised. 

Dear Evan Hansen is currently booking until October at the Noël Coward Theatre in London. It features the book by Steven Levenson and a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman).

I received an email from the theatre with important details before the performance, but just a note that when it says you can’t bring food or drink in they really mean it. We had a quick dinner at The Real Greek across the road beforehand and I had a small box with my leftover flatbreads I was planning to take home, however these were confiscated during a bag search before entry. If you are in London for the day and have shopping bags you might want to look into lockers to leave items you can’t take into the theatre. The email contained a link to places where you can leave extra bags (for a fee).

You can buy drinks and normal theatre refreshments in the theatre including ice cream in the interval.

Running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes including the interval.

While this isn’t exactly a feel good musical, it is a must see for a brilliant evening out in London.

*Tickets were gifted in exchange for Instagram coverage, all thoughts are my own*

1 comment

  1. I saw the production this evening, Aug 3 and have a different take from the reviewer above. It was a tired and underperformed performance. The cast, as a whole, looked as if they wanted their current run to complete. The actor playing the Evan lead was particularly off form. Vocals were weak and acting non existent for the first two thirds of the play. Solid efforts by the actors in the roles of Connor and Evan's mom were unable to lift the energies of the balance of the cast. The troop was poorly served by the sound and lighting teams. The volume and brightness of the performers' vocals were poorly modulated which contributed to the low energy of the show. And a lighting malfunction in the first half led to the cast leaving the stage for 10 minutes while fixes were put in place. Dear Evans Hansen fans would be well served to wait for a future revival.


Thanks for your comment (unless it's spam in which case, why?)