Dear Evan Hansen | Review

Show rating: ★★★★
Accessibility rating: ★★★★

Dear Evan Hansen has to be one of the most highly anticipated shows to arrive in the West End, from the first announcements to the cast reveal, all eyes have been on this show. It's connected with people all over the world and despite not getting caught up in the hype, I was still intrigued as to what was drawing everyone into this emotional piece of theatre. It's a stripped back show with celebrated music and a small cast of just 8, but it feels enormous at times. The story follows Evan, a socially awkward teenager attempting to navigate his way through high school. He gets caught up in a lie though, a big lie, and we watch as this all unfolds. Social media plays a big part in this show too and the timing couldn't be more apt with conversations constantly happening about whether social media is a good thing or a bad thing.

I went into the show knowing what it's about but I think you forget until you're sat in the theatre how big the topics they're tackling are. Mental health, bullying, the breakdown of a family. It's hard hitting stuff folded between songs that can lift you up and just as quickly, send you hurtling back down to earth. I'm always hesitant when a shows most well known song comes along so early in the evening but whilst Waving Through A Window is certainly an incredible number, for me it's You Will Be Found, Good For You and Sincerely, Me that steal the show. Sometimes it felt like the stage was just a little too empty and there wasn't quite enough happening for my taste but these songs were scattered throughout the evening perfectly to pick things up.

I felt at times that Evan's social anxieties were perhaps being over acted and used as humour a little too often, sometimes it just wasn't necessary and it's not a show that needs to rely on such things so I was a little surprised by that choice. I'm also definitely someone who prefers a busier stage as well so things did feel a little quiet and empty occasionally due to the simple set. Lighting and sound is used frequently in place of a physical set, with the cast often being aided by just a chair and a laptop. It works, but for me it still felt as though something was missing. I didn't fall head over heels in love with this show but I certainly enjoyed it and in particular I was blown away by the cast.

Photos by Matthew Murphy

Sam Tutty is simply sensational and it's so refreshing to see a West End show being led by such fresh young talent.  Doug Colling shone out during Sincerly, Me as Connor Murphy and Lucy Anderson has the most beautiful voice that cuts through the silence in the audience. Rebecca McKinnis was just as convincing a parent as she was in Everybody's Talking About Jamie too, with So Big/So Small being a really beautiful and still moment amongst the chaos. I had first cover for Alana Beck on, the wonderful Courtney Stapleton who I know from previous shows and what a treat it was to see her perform, her characterisation was spot on and her voice was powerful at every opportunity.

There is so much that this show did well and I was surprised by how much I did enjoy it, but it's not one I'm bursting to see it again and even now I can't quite put my finger on why! I think it's a must watch though, the music really speaks for itself and hits so differently when it's being performed on stage versus listening to the cast recording. I can really see why so many do adore it!

As for the access, this was my first visit to the Noël Coward Theatre and so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I arrived at the entrance to theatre where security were able to radio through to find a member of staff to assist me through a different entrance to the theatre. The member of staff arrived and directed me to a door on the right hand side of the main entrance, which they opened from the inside to greet me. I knew that access to the foyer and seating was via a ramp but without photos (which even I forgot to take), you never really know how steep it was going to be. Now, if you've read my & Juliet review you'll know that I struggled with the steepness of the ramps at the Shaftesbury Theatre, this ramp wasn't quite as steep but it definitely wasn't a calm gradient! A manual wheelchair user and even some electric wheelchair users would certainly need assistance to use it, or just someone stood behind them for reassurance.

Ramp navigated I now had access to the foyer, where I could see the cast board (well, screen) and access the merchandise stand. Once the doors opened I was taken to my seat which was in Box M, the website cites the door to this box as being 68cm wide and I'd say that's pretty accurate so definitely give your wheelchair a measure before booking! It's a long thin box with a large 'window' at the end to view the stage. It's quite unique from other boxes I've sat in as it's positioned towards the back of the Royal Circle, rather than on the side of it and closer to the stage. It was a great view that I really couldn't complain about, especially as the access rate is £23.75 for this seat. I think perhaps whoever is sat closest to the stage might have a slight restriction as I was sharing the box with someone else and they had to lean forward every now and then. 

The standard accessible toilet is modern and spacious, it's right by where I entered the theatre so I'd use it before you pass through the foyer as it's small foyer that gets busy quickly and I had to be guided through the crowd by a member of staff to access the toilet before the show. Upon leaving we decided that if I wasn't in a rush then it was probably best to wait a few minutes before attempting to leave, which was definitely the right decision and made for a stress free exit. All I had to do was navigate the ramp, which was much easier going down, and then I was out! Other than perhaps the ramp I have to say it was quite a stress free visit! I was really impressed by the access rate price and the view from the box in particular. I can definitely see me returning in the future!

I think I can see this being a show I revisit later on in the year, perhaps on my second trip I will fall head over heels in love like others have! For now I appreciate the music and the talented cast, both of which are factors more than big enough for me to recommend a visit. 

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