Dear Evan Hansen – Music Box Theatre.

Tonight I got to see Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theatre in NYC. Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical by Pasek and Paul starring Ben Platt. Pasek and Paul are notable for their music in La La Land. The musical follows the story of Evan Hansen, a socially anxious high school senior; a letter that was never supposed to be read; and a lie that should never have been told.I had been itching to see this since I saw Ben Platt perform ‘Waving through a Window’ on Seth Meyers. With Dear Evan Hansen winning six Tony awards and having been heralded as the Hamilton of the 2016/17 season, I was expecting big things. I was not disappointed.

DEH is a deeply emotional show. This is definitely aided by Ben Platt’s brilliant performance, but also by the directing and staging of everything, particularly the musical numbers. ‘You will be found’ and ‘Waving through a Window’, both gave me chills. The most wonderful thing about the staging was that it was so simplistic. The musical felt so contemporary, which is so hard to do. Of course, another factor that made it feel so modern was the use of social media as a part of the narrative and the set. The set was so sparse and bare; with rotating platforms that was just a small part of the set. The technology used in creating the set and atmosphere was fantastic. The design of social media, videos, emails and letters constantly bombarding stage, made you feel so overwhelmed, but so alone at the same time.The cast were fantastic. Ben Platt was brilliant, however not the only star of the show though, Colton Ryan, Connor Murphy, and Laura Dreyfuss, Zoe Murphy, were both fantastic and definitely contributed towards those six Tony Awards. The music by Pasek and Paul was fantastic. I can’t imagine this story being told in any other form. The music was vital in showing how the characters felt, without being too ‘musical theatre-y’, again another factor in why the show felt so contemporary. Despite the story being very melancholic and emotional, it was surprisingly funny. They managed to make it funny effortlessly, without it being too corny.

I think one of the reasons the story resonates with so many people, is because it’s so relatable. It’s so easy to feel alone in a time where everything is instant, and validation is usually given in the form of shares and likes. People get to curate their lives. It’s so hard to see what people actually feel. To use the cliché – you can be surrounded by people, and still feel alone. Almost everyone has felt like Evan Hansen at least once in their life (minus the dubious moral choices). It’s a story that’s been told before, but now it’s been brought to 2017, with the music and the technical aspects, it’s so much easier to see in everyday life.

I absolutely loved the show, despite my fears. I’m so glad I got a chance to see it with the original cast. It was a melancholic, funny, technical wonder, with a hint of hope strung throughout it.  I have so much else to say about this, but luckily that will be in an essay, so you don’t have to worry. I’m sorry that this is still so long. Hopefully, this show will transfer to London next year!

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Groundhog Day- Musical

Today I saw Groundhog Day at the August Wilson Theatre in NYC. This is the third show I've seen on Broadway – And the first one I've thoroughly enjoyed. Groundhog Day is a musical adaptation of the film by Tim Minchin. I've never seen the film, so this was my first encounter of the story. I didn't know what I expected, but it wasn't what I saw.

The film translated surprisingly well to the stage, with the lighting providing a clear visualisation of the days repeating themselves. Usually I would hate a show that tried to be a film, however in this production, they did that, but very effectively, when dealing with scenes that were hard to adapt to the stage – For example, the police chase scene. The show was repetitive, but not boring by any stretch. Tim Minchin brought the wackiness and surreality of the film to the stage. Notably with a wonderfully, darkly comedic song about suicide, called 'Hope'.

The cast were fantastic, you couldn't help but fall a little in love with weatherman Phil Conners (Andy Karl). And everyone found comfort in Barrett Doss's Rita Hanson. The duo worked brilliantly together, and their voices complimented each other beautifully. The characters were full of life. Every character had their own story. They were never just there for the sake of it.

It was wacky, fun, truthful- with a message without being condescending, and it was funny.

Unfortunately Groundhog Day is closing tomorrow, however it is rumored to be returning to London, and I would highly recommend checking it out if you can.

 

( I do have a backlog of reviews to get up- mainly from the Fringe and I will get them up when I have a chance! But from now until December, I will be based in New York, so will be reviewing shows over here)

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place”

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place” – Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter) 

I type this, as I sit in an LCP seminar discussing this particular quote from the President Elect Donald Trump. This tweet followed the Vice President elect, Mike Pence’s  trip to see Hamilton, where he was booed by the audience, addressed at the end of the production by the cast. Brandon Victor Dixon addressed Pence, after the curtain call, as he tried to make a speedy exit.

“Vice-president elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us, just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen,We’re all here sharing a story about love. We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

Pence reacted, not in anger, but instead asking whether this was appropriate, and called into question the position of Theatre in our society. Is it a place for political debates? Were the cast of Hamilton right to call out Pence in the Theatre?  As much as I dislike Pence, his reaction was commendable. He told his children, that the booing was the sound of freedom and complimented the cast. Trump reacted, oppositely, through his usual media, a rant on Twitter.

“The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior” -Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter)

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” -Donald J.Trump (via. Twitter) 

There are so many things that make me angry about these statements. Firstly that the president elect is so petty, about some one respectfully calling out his administration, with their fears, that he will insult their career and art. Secondly, his definition of a ‘safe space.’ According to Trump, a safe space, in college, to stop women from getting raped and sexually assaulted, is political correctness gone mad, but the minute a middle-aged, straight, white man, is respectfully called out, it’s a necessity. Trump, was not the first person to call the Theatre a safe and special place.

In recent history, Theatre, has been considered a safe, special space, especially for minorities, with many mainstream performances having political roots. The production, that I think of, when discussing this, is RENT. The characters of which are made up of Black, Gay, Straight, Queer, Trans Americans in New York. A story that would have been hard to tell at the time, through other mediums.

Theatre is now used to challenge that norm. Trump wants it to be comfortable, to not invoke change. The statement felt drenched with irony, and made me uncomfortable. Who is he to say, what the theatre, can or can’t be? Broadway has always generally been democratic, rather than republican. Yes, the Theatre is and should be a safe and special place, but his definitions of safe and special, are not ones I agree with. It shouldn’t only be safe for the straight, white man. Which I and many others, think that Trump’s administration will lead to. How dare he use a phrase, so commonly used, in protecting minorities, when his campaign and his policies be so heavily rooted, in racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and everything else.

The other question raised, is, were the cast right to get involved in Politics? Since the dawn of Theatre, it has always been used as a way to inform people, and discuss politics, from Greek Tragedy to Brechtian to Contemporary Theatre. I think the cast, of a show about politics, especially a cast made up of minorities, had a right to an opinion, and using their platform was admirable.  As I said, Broadway has never shied away from it’s democratic tendencies.  Addressing the issues of Trump’s policies, at the end of a show, which glorifies, and rightly so, immigrants, was particularly powerful, and amplified the core aspects of the show. Especially as Trump’s policies tends to target immigrant. I am constantly drawn back to the line ‘Immigrants. We get the job done’, which the reaction, to that showing, according to reports, was very lively.  The cast addressed Pence respectfully, and kindly, better than how Trump treated the cast.