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Fantastic “Dear Evan Hansen” and Acapella “In Transit” on Broadway (Reviews) December 15, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.

There’s a new force of nature in the musical theater world and his name is Ben Platt who has arrived in a mail-the-Tony-to-him-now performance as the title character in “Dear Evan Hansen” at the Music Box Theatre — able to play both a lonely, communication-inept, misfit teenager and alternately explode in self-assured musical numbers with a voice that makes you drop your jaw this is a performance to be treasured…and it will be come award time.
The show itself has been very quiet in advertising what it is about, and for good reason, because like the (very similar) Next to Normal it is better to discover it’s many layers of family drama as the musical slowly explores themes of loneliness, grief, outsiders, outliers, lies, depression, and the pain of teenage angst when you find yourself unable to “fit in” even on social media (constant ticker tapes of which flicker and advance on the stages many screens).

The cast of 8 are remarkable performers, and they have terrific material to work with from writer Steven Levenson and music/lyrics by Benjamin Pasek & Justin Paul — front stacked with the explosive “Waving Through a Window” and “For Forever”. Director Michael Greif lets the show play out primarily downstage center, and the on-stage orchestra adds a feeling of urgency to everything. The very high-tech set and projections by David Korins and Peter Nigrini as well as the outstanding lighting by Japhy Weideman will not be forgotten at award time either.—-I can’t say much more in favor of this excellent new musical except that you should try to get tickets — if you can. It’s sold solid for months.

At the other end of the extreme is the feather-light “In Transit” at Circle in the Square. Billed as Broadway’s first acapella musical this really is a show all about the vocals — documenting the daily travails of a group of New Yorkers on trains, planes, and busses, it is a glorious advertisement for the good, bad, and ugly aspects of the NY MTA and a favorite moment included a radio-controlled rat carrying a slice of pizza along the track.
The eleven member cast is superb, and includes Justin Guarini, Telly Leung, James Snyder, and Margo Seibert. That’s really about it. I enjoyed the show quite a bit as an ex-New Yorker, but I can’t imagine anyone outside of New Yorkers finding much to care about in the paper-thin mini dramas. Instead, go for the acapella singing because it is exquisite (even if the tunes themselves are instantly forgettable).
The very clever set is designed by Donyale Werle and includes a stage length slip stage which allows for some great scene changes and motion. Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall has done an expert job keeping things hopping on the thrust stage, and it is all fun and entertaining without ever really drawing you in. Mostly it just made me wonder: “why”?
Look for heavily discounted tickets, and a short run – if you want to see it, see it now.

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