I can’t believe the 7 months of lunch-time rehearsals, after school rehearsals, and weekend rehearsals could just come to three 2 hour performances. I’m trying my very best to hold in tears of joy and sorrow while writing this and it’s not working very well… If you want more detail about the actual musical and who’s playing who, I suggest you go and read this post first.
This past week has been EPIC. Broadway feelings right to the core. From the last tech rehearsal on Monday, the open dress rehearsal on Tuesday, to Wednesday’s nerve-racking first official performance, then the tear-jerking final performance on Thursday, I was loving every moment of it. Zoe Murphy was, and still is, a wonderful character and I feel so lucky to have been able to take the role. Now, I’m going to sum up each performance in one sentence then go into more detail.
Tuesday: The stumbling start.
It was an open ‘dress rehearsal’. Though we did have some audience, we knew that it wasn’t going to be perfect. And it wasn’t. The light cues weren’t coming in time, some of the songs were too quiet/loud, actors forgot their lines and cues, props and sets weren’t in place at the right scenes, the curtain call was really disorganised etc etc. We were screaming in our heads (and quietly dying backstage) throughout the whole performance. This performance was actually more bumpy than the run-through we did on Monday, so we were all kinda bummed out in the end. But we still had two more days — the official ones — to go, so there was hope.
Audience reaction the next day: It was surprisingly good! People apparently didn’t notice most, if not any, of the mistakes and I was quite pleased to see people who came recommending their friends to come watch our show.
Wednesday: The picture-prefect performance.
If there is every a chance to call something perfect, I think the second night of our show deserves the title. No actor forgot their line or cue; we all sang out to the audience, the props and sets were in place when we needed them to be and the sound/light cues were on point. Although we didn’t lose that tension till the last bow during the curtain-call, we were all jumping up and down with delight when the show ended. It was AMAZING how things changed with a little bit more focus and a full audience. I ended up crying onstage during Bella’s ‘Words Fail’, since I was genuinely heart-broken while playing Zoe.
Audience reaction the next day: There were so many positive comments! People told me that they’ve literally cried through the whole show because they found a part of them within the characters. They also thought the stage itself, with the screens and digital effects were mind-blowing. They hadn’t the slightest thought that the PAC could look so cool. Teachers and students alike were abuzz about our show — to the point where students who knew nothing about Dear Evan Hansen starting listening to the soundtracks. If that’s not considered ‘positive influence’, I don’t know what is.
Thursday: The cathartic curtain-call.
It wasn’t… perfect like yesterday’s performance. There were slight bumps in the way but nothing too big for us to cry over about. But we did cry. During the show. Because we were so emotionally into it. I’d shed my tears during Requiem; I was crying over a non-existent brother who had died. Eunice, who played Heidi, was crying during her solo, ‘So Big, So Small’, even when she’s had no experience as a single mom. Larry, played by Eunsang, and I were both crying during ‘Words Fail’ — again. And I think everyone at least got watery eyes when singing the Finale for the last time. We’ve been singing those songs at least 300 times, but it was different. We all connected to our characters and gave it our best. That night I truly understood what our Stage Manager, Mr Park, said about being able to fill the whole stage with our presence and emotion. We took our last bows and gave our thanks. The cast party was such a delight — we were eating cake, laughing, singing, crying — so many emotions packed inside a room.
Audience reaction the next day: Every class I went to, there was at least a 10 minute discussion about the show (I had not started it — people were genuinely touched and excited about the show). I couldn’t believe it was still over, partly because there were still kids and teachers coming up to me, telling me that it was the best thing they’d ever seen.
It was so weird going back to school after each night because before we knew it, we were celebrities! Teachers, whom I’ve never talked to, came to me and shook my hand, telling me that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the show and that we should be proud.
Right now, I don’t know how I’m going to handle ‘normal school days’ since every single day for the past few weeks, I’ve been in school until night time, rehearsing and just fully immersing myself in the world of Dear Evan Hansen. I didn’t go back to the boarding house to register like other students and went straight to the PAC, the Performing Arts Centre, to change into my costume and get ready for the upcoming show. I’ve had so many dinners in the changing rooms that it was almost becoming a second home to me.
If you had asked, I don’t know, 14 year old me who was in Year 7, I would have never agreed to do this. Part of me would’ve liked the idea of being onstage but committing this much with the expense of not being able to go home right after CCAs? Not a chance. But Dear Evan Hansen was definitely worth it — I’d do it again if I could. Without a moment of hesitation.
Come to think of it, through the 8 years I’ve been at NLCS Jeju, I don’t think there was ever a musical at this big of a scale, let alone a student-led one. The directors/producers were Year 12s — Bella (also our beloved Evan Hansen), Jongwon (playing the insanely cool Jared Kleinman), and Olivia (who was the very relatable, Alana Beck). I’ve worked with Bella before (last year’s Can You Hear Me was by her. You can read about it here) and it was insane how dedicated the three were to this show. Even when there was a crisis (and I know for a fact that there were many, many crises), they never gave up and solved it. A million thanks to them. Seriously.
Our show almost got cancelled (copyright issues which is now partially solved — also the reason why we can’t upload videos of the actual show online), cut short, and postponed, but somehow we managed to pull through all that and deliver something that was never done before. I take real pride in that. We, technically, are the first high schoolers (who am I kidding — first people in Asia) to perform Dear Evan Hansen. I don’t think it can get more legendary than that.
I know I’m going to suffer from postpartum depression now that this is over. What am I going to do with my life? I played Zoe and I became Zoe. There’s a Zoe- (and all the characters, really) -sized hole in my heart and I don’t think anyone can fill it. I actually started talking like Zoe (well, the actress who played her: Laura Dreyfuss) and adapted certain words she used. Bella also had that problem where she would start talking like Evan and even doing some of the gestures that he does. Jongwon was so into Jared’s character that in the end, we could hardly tell them apart. I noticed other cast members ‘becoming’ their characters and that would be our inside-joke.
The whole cast consisted of just 8 people. Working together with them just made it feel like I was a part of an extended family. I had never felt so… ‘belonged to’ in my life before. I was a part of something and it meant the world to me.
Everyone in the cast had become so much more than ‘another cast member’, or even just a ‘school friend’. The seven of them have a special place in my heart and that will never change. The backstage and tech crew have also been tremendous team players. Without them, our show would just consist of actors running around the stage in darkness singing without a backing track (but that also wouldn’t have been heard, without the mics). So many people gave their time and effort to help bring our show together.
There is no doubt that this is one of the biggest turning points in my life. There’s still so much to talk about and at this rate I don’t think I’ll ever be finished. Throughout the seven months, I’ve grown so much as a person. Dear Evan Hansen will always be in my heart.
Oh, and #youwillbefound!