Words by Simon Button
It’s a worry that prohibitive ticket prices (not exclusive to this show but symptomatic of the West End in general) might mean Dear Evan Hansen’s target audience - namely teenagers for whom it will resonate the most - are confined to the cheaper seats.
Certainly on the night I went along there were only a handful of youngsters to be seen, unless they were way up in the gods, distanced from a musical which speaks directly to the things they’re most concerned with - like trying to fit in when you feel unseen and navigating social media where you’re no-one unless you’re followed and liked and on-trend.
But there’s a £25 lottery and that’s good news because this show, with a terrific contemporary score by La La Land and The Greatest Showman composers Benji Pasak and Justin Paul, is sort of the American Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in that it’s a musical for and about today’s youth.
And it marks the arrival of a major new talent in Sam Tutty, an Italia Conti graduate making his West End debut as the titular hero who - suffering from anxiety and yearning for the attention of a single mother who is working flat-out to keep them afloat - ends up weaving a tangled web of well-meant lies when a kid from his school kills himself.
Evan’s pretending to have been the boy’s best friend isn’t done maliciously, he just goes along with it because he’s infatuated with said boy’s sister.
Tutty is a bunch of nervous ticks and twitches as what starts out as a bit of a lark spirals out of control and he perfectly captures the character’s deer-in-the-headlights angst.
He also sings up a storm, as does Rebecca McKinnis - fresh from playing Jamie’s mum and so good at conveying a parent’s aching need to understand a son who has built a wall around him.
I saw the show on Broadway and, with a much younger crowd, it was electrifying. Here in London it feels a little like it’s still finding its feet and the ending doesn’t quite pack the emotional wallop it should do.
But the staging - with projections of email content and Facebook feeds - is very now, the songs are very pop and Tutty is so good that it is sure to be the biggest kill-for-a ticket sensation since Hamilton.
Dear Evan Hansen is at the Noël Coward Theatre, London. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.
Images by Matthew Murphy