Dear Evan Hansen delivers poignant message in today’s high-tech world

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The current Broadway play at the Dr. Phillips Center is a haunting reminder of the loneliness that most children experience as they grow from childhood and transition into being an adult.

There is so much to unpack in this story and this writer will not spoil it for you.

Before entering the Disney Theater, I knew nothing of the play. I was accompanied by our journalism intern from UCF who happens to have a brother in high school. I can’t help but wonder how this impacted her. I am many years away from high school and, in the gathered wisdom of old age, recognize the impact those formative years have on one’s character.

Evan Hansen is growing up in a time when social media captures our every thought and makes our youth more vulnerable to deception, strong feelings of isolation and loneliness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide (a growing epidemic among young people these days).

Turning away from the message of the play, I must mention the production. A touring cast is often thought of as the “B Team” of Broadway, but I cannot imagine a better Evan Hansen than this young star Ben Levi Ross.

Just out of Carnegie Melon School of Drama with only a year of Broadway credit as a cast member of this show, he was Evan Hansen in every nuance, mannerism, quirk and rapid rambling monologue.

And, oh, what a voice! His range and tenor were pure perfection. His was a performance among the best I have ever seen in my 60 plus years watching theater.

The cast is small with only eight characters, each exceptional in portraying their struggles facing death and disappointments.

“So Big/So Small” sung by Heidi Hansen (Jessica Phillips), Evan’s struggling single Mom, still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it.  Zoe, the terrorized sister and Evan’s dream girl was played by Maggie McKenna. She captured the heart of my young associate who perhaps related to growing up in this fast-paced digital world where few people slow down and really know each other.

Thank you for reminding us to go outside, look away from the hi-tech screens that consume us, and look at the trees. Yes, Evan Hansen, today will be an awesome day, because I choose to make it so.

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