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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Reigniting My Love for [Dear Evan Hansen]


Poster for the musical Dear Evan Hansen, with Evan in a cast that says #youwillbefound

When I saw a poster advertising Dear Evan Hansen in Korea, I was enthralled. I thought I'd missed my opportunity due to being in the US, but no, it was going on until June 23rd. It would be a Korean cast, and the whole musical would be translated into Korean, but that wasn't going to stop me. In fact, I was excited to see what the musical would be like after translation.


So I started contacting my old theatre buddies - the ones who performed Dear Evan Hansen with me back in high school (if you want to read what that was all about, click here). Unfortunately, most of them were either not in the country or didn't have time. But one of them, who played Connor, my on-stage brother, was able to come along.


In Korea, we usually double-cast most roles and sometimes even triple-cast the main characters. So that meant there were a lot of different combinations of cast members that we could watch from! None of the names really rang a bell, and at that point, I was just trying to get tickets before I spontaneously combusted in anticipation, so we decided on a day and a time that worked for both of us.


Three musical actors cast as Evan Hansen in the musical, Dear Evan Hansen, wearing a striped blue shirt
the three actors playing Evan (middle actor: 1st performance/ right actor: 2nd performance / left actor: 3rd performance)

I was so pumped about watching Dear Evan Hansen. I realized I had never actually watched the full musical from start to finish since I performed it. I knew my scene well, but not other scenes. My friend and I joked that this performance wasn't the 'first-ever' in Korea like they claimed in ads because we had performed it years ago.


When we stepped into the performance hall, the first thing I noticed was the set-up! It was honestly so cool. The screens that surrounded the stage and the staging were very well done. I was slightly apprehensive about the whole musical being translated into Korean since some dialogues and songs can turn very cheesy or cringy depending on how they word things. But as the musical went along, I no longer had that worry. The only problem (and this was definitely a 'me' problem) was that I kept subconsciously translating the dialogue and song lyrics into English, which distracted me a little.


And I have to give it to our student directors of the show back in high school because they must have devoured the video clips of the original performance since our performance had the exact same blocking (movements around the stage). I could quite literally trace where the characters would go, though sometimes it was mirrored.


I couldn't help but sing along or add the harmonies (or at least mouth the words). It was barely audible, so I didn't disturb anyone else, though. But let me just say that the actor playing Jared was literally Jared himself. It was as if he was possessed by the character. His interactions with Evan were so funny. I also found a new love for the song 'To Break in a Glove' sung by Larry (Zoe's father) and Evan because I finally figured out the song was a metaphor for how Larry tried his best for Connor, even when it seemed like the people around him accused him of not trying.


I was crying pretty hard towards the end, mostly because of 'Words Fail' and 'So Big, So Small', but also because I wanted to be on stage performing DEH again. When I came back home, I had to do a full run-through of the set list (songs) to calm myself down and not get into a frenzy or be sad about not being able to perform this epic musical again. I also ended up rewatching the recording of our performance.


 

The second time I watched the performance, I went with my parents. The cast was quite different this time: there was a new Evan, Connor, and Zoe. I didn't realize this before (since I never had the urge to watch the same musical again), but the difference in actors makes a huge difference in how the performance feels in terms of their interactions and little ad-libs.


The new Evan was an amazing singer! But I did think that his portrayal of the character of Evan was a little bit over the top and made Evan seem more on the autistic spectrum than someone with social anxiety (though sometimes it may be hard to tell apart even in real life). The new Zoe was very cool—I could even say she was more like the female version of Connor in the way that she acted. She had an amazing voice, also. Very powerful. To be completely honest, I didn't really feel for the new Connor. The actor playing Connor had decided that Connor's character should be bouncy and cheery (and I know after the first scene, any time he appears it's more like Connor in Evan's mind/design). It was just a little weird to see such a big shift in his personality.


Funnily enough, I had a hard time completely immersing myself during this performance as well because it felt like I was introducing a boyfriend (the musical) to my parents. Every time I sensed something was a little off (probably no one thought that except for me unless you did the musical yourself), I got pretty agitated since I wanted my parents to love the musical as much as I did. It seemed like my parents did like it, especially my mom, who was so moved by the songs and the messages that she was bawling by the end of the musical.


During intermission, I decided that if I had already watched two performances and 'collected' two Evans, then I needed to watch for a third time. There was a combination of actors that I really wanted to watch, which meant that I would watch my third (and last) performance the very next day.


 

For the third performance, I went by myself.


AND IT WAS AN EPIC END TO THE THREE VISITS!!!!!!


The last Evan, played by actor Park Gang-Hyun, was SO GOOD. His portrayal of the character was done so intricately - he must have taken a long time to fully understand and develop the character of Evan. And his singing - oh, his singing! From the very first note of 'Waving Through a Window' to the last note of the 'For Forever reprise', I was constantly in awe of his voice.


Something that made me laugh out loud was that I wasn't the only person who came by myself. In my row, all sitting next to each other were five other girls who came to watch the performance by themselves. And I'd say a fellow musical fan recognizes another since we all brought our own opera glasses (binoculars) instead of renting them at the place. It was so funny because I think a lot of them were big fans of the actors playing Evan and Connor (much like myself) and so whenever the two of them were both on stage, the six of us would pick up our glasses and swivel our heads in the same direction at very similar times. If someone had recorded us watching the musical, you'd be able to see us intently looking through our binoculars as if we were one being.


This Connor's low voice blended so well with Evan's thinner, more higher pitched voice. I loved their harmony!! And this time, the actor who played Heidi was a very famous musical actor (they're all famous, but you get what I mean). I knew her from her epic performance of Ms Danverse from the musical Rebecca. Though her singing was still epic, I thought her way of delivering the lines or her way of portraying the character through body language wasn't as close to what one would expect of Heidi's character. Heidi, to me at least, is a mother who would do anything to survive for the sake of Evan, but life is inevitably hard for her and she's barely holding on. But the actor had so much power in her voice/body language what I couldn't really feel the 'struggle' that Heidi was going through.


She gave me 'Asian Tiger Mom' vibes, which was kind of funny when it was coupled with Evan's meek behavior. Especially in Act 2 Scene 6, where the Murphys meet Heidi for the first time, Heidi is supposed to be portrayed in a vulnerable and 'weaker' position (the dialogue and interactions subtly hint at the fact that both finacially and intellectually, she is not on par with the Murphys). But the actor playing Heidi made it look like she was not phased by any of it. Still, it was really interesting to see different interpretations of the same character.


Speaking of, the person playing Jared was also different this time. I think he was listed as an understudy - he portrayed a much more 'realistic' version of Jared, unlike the other actor playing the character. He really did seem like a person I could see at a high school. This last time I watched the performance, I was able to focus so much better and was in 'fan mode' not 'stage manager mode'. I wasn't worried about all sorts of performance-related issues that could arise. I could see more clearly how Jared and Alana were affected by the whole debacle - Alana did so many things to be seen as a person but no one takes notice of her. Perhaps even less so than Evan himself (because at least the audience is focusing on him from the beginning). That's why she was so adamant to start the Connor Project, because she was hoping to make real connections. Jared acts cool and claims that he has friends but in actual fact, he comes back to Evan because he doesn't have real friends. When Evan points that out, he becomes defensive. I though that was quite heartbreaking.


Oh, and I had another revelation about Zoe and Evan (and their love story). In Act 2 Scene 9, the very last scene of the whole musical, the two of them meet up at the orchard after the whole deal has been revealed to be Evan's big lie. I thought there was no feelings (except maybe regret and a bit of awkwardness) between them, but I could see how, in a certain light, Evan and Zoe would still want another chance at romance. Their conversation sort of reflects their interaction in the scene where they sing Only Us. This wasn't anything big, but it made me smile at the end.


The three different times I went to see the musical

(oh, and what do you know, I'm wearing blue stripes in all of them - definitely not intentional wink wink)


 

Dear Evan Hansen is a wonderful musical in many ways. The music and songs are filled with emotion and meaning, and the dialogues hold truth — a reflection of what could happen in our own lives.


It picks out issues in our society about remembering to reach out to people who need someone to carry them through tough times, being true to ourselves, and even the double-edged use of the internet. We now live in a time where good news can be spread so quickly, bringing people together, but that also means that it's much easier for groupthink to occur and witch hunts to take place under the cover of false information and anonymity. Dear Evan Hansen teaches us a valuable lesson that though it might be tough to face who you truly are, you shouldn't back away and hide. Only then can you step into the light.


And that you're never alone in fighting your fights.

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