Review and Thoughts: Dear Evan Hansen Cast Album

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It’s finally here. The show everyone’s talking about this season, Dear Evan Hansen, just released their cast album this past Friday and I’m here to give my thoughts. I’ve got to be honest, I’m pretty biased towards this show – when the cast album was announced I pre-ordered it immediately. I first came across Dear Evan Hansen last spring when it was running Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre through a few people on social media. The plot holds incredible similarities to something I experienced my freshman year of high school, and the use of social media and Ben Platt in the title role really drew me in. Despite my excitement, I’m going to try my best to take a neutral stance for this review. So, does the cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen truly live up to the hype of the show itself? Let’s find out.

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Ben Platt as the titular character, “Evan Hansen”.

In Dear Evan Hansen, high school senior Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) gets unexpectedly wrapped up in a complicated lie surrounding the suicide of fellow student Connor Murphy (Mike Faist). As the lie spreads through social media, the socially anxious Evan begins to connect with Connor’s sister and his crush, Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss), and their parents, Larry (Michael Park) and Cynthia (Jennifer Laura Thompson). Eventually, tensions start to grow between Evan’s mother, Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones) and his friends, Jared (Will Roland) and Alana (Kristolyn Lloyd), causing Evan to wonder if he did the right thing for a chance to fit in.

One thing that is apparent the moment you hit play on the cast album, is that every cast member has a moment to shine. Interestingly, the first song of the album, “Anybody Have a Map?” features Heidi and Cynthia and their struggles in parenting in a digital age. The decision to feature the mothers of Dear Evan Hansen versus the titular character in the first song of the show really sets the tone for the rest of the musical and shows the listener that no character will be pushed to the side without getting at least some development.

The most notable performance on the album is Ben Platt (best known for his role as “Benji” in the Pitch Perfect films) in the title role. His breakout song in the musical is “Waving Through a Window“, in which Evan expresses his desire to fit in with his peers and be apart of something bigger. The aforementioned song has been quite popular with listeners even before the cast album release, thanks to its incredibly relatable lyrics (written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) and to the Dear Evan Hansen marketing team releasing it as a free download to those whole pre-ordered the cast album. Platt’s impressive tenor vocals that feature a strong belt also take center stage in “For Forever” and “Words Fail” – the latter of which many say is the most emotional song in album thanks to Platt’s talents. Rachel Bay Jones as Heidi has a few similar moments as well – “So Big / So Small” is a number so emotionally draining on Jones that after she comes off stage, one of the stage managers tells her a different joke after every live performance. Her, along with Kristolyn Lloyd as Alana and Will Roland as Jared also give a commendable performance in the intense Act 2 number “Good For You“, in which Evan’s lie is exposed and his friends and family become upset with his choices.

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Ben Platt as Evan, Will Roland as Jared (center), and Mike Faist as Connor in Dear Evan Hansen.

A more comedic song and arguably the most catchy out of the whole track list, is “Sincerely, Me“, which features Platt, Faist, and Roland’s characters trying to write backdated emails to back up Evan’s claim that him and Connor were in fact friends and wrote candid emails to each other. With a toe-tapping, bouncing piano melody, a catchy refrain that’s been stuck in my head all weekend, and lyrics that are just plain absurd when taken out of context such as “You’ll be obsessed with all my forest expertise!”, this song is my personal favorite.

But perhaps the true selling point of the Dear Evan Hansen cast album (at the time of writing this, it currently sits at the number one spot on the iTunes top albums chart), despite its stellar cast, is what its message provides listeners of all ages with – a sense of belonging.  This comes in the form of the show’s powerful Act 1 finale, “You Will Be Found“, where Evan attempts to convince those at a school assembly that there will always be someone there for them. The song’s building chorus comes to fruition with a simple refrain of the phrase “You are not alone.” that practically bursts with hope. The titular mantra of the song has become so popular among fans that the official Dear Evan Hansen social media have taken to using it as a marketing hashtag, which many fans use to share their personal stories, photos, covers, fanart, and more to show what the musical means to them. If you must listen to only one song from Dear Evan Hansen, I’m begging you – make it this one.

The message that “You Will Be Found” and Dear Evan Hansen itself tries to leave its listeners, I feel, is the beauty of Dear Evan Hansen‘s cast album release: everyone – no matter how old you are, where you come from, or the circumstances – can relate to feeling alone, feeling like a burden, feeling like nobody would notice if you just disappeared one day.  What’s difficult to grasp about that feeling – if you’ve ever felt it in any magnitude – is that you can’t really understand the immense weight of that feeling and how so many people are affected by it until you see it manifest in such a large way. Until you truly see it’s not just you. And seeing a entire real, tangible community of people who have once experienced similar struggles and come out the other side intact makes it true that, yes, you are not alone in what you feel. And yes – you will be found, no matter how broken you might be.


Dear Evan Hansen is currently playing on Broadway, and the cast album is available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. For more information visit dearevanhansen.com.

 

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Review and Thoughts: Otherbody – A Brief Musical Allegory

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The past few weeks in our country have been incredibly emotionally charged with hate, fear, and strife. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. No matter how you feel about our new President, I think we can all agree that there’s a huge divide in the population. It’s going to take a lot of time to make sense of it, and a lot of work on behalf of everyone to mend it. But one place where the reality of this new administration has hit the hardest is the theatre community. Many members of the community, including composer Ryan Scott Oliver and book writer Nessie Nankivell, have taken their feelings during this tumultuous time and made it into art.

Oliver and Nanikvell’s most recent endeavor, Otherbody: A Brief Musical Allegory, is a direct response to the political and social climate in 2017 America. Released only on iTunes and Spotify in early January, the 20-minute recording features Nicholas Christoper as mysterious main character known only as “The Teller”. The Teller, a young black gay man – who has never seen his own face, heard his own voice, or seen daylight – ventures out into the world after the death of his “Goodtree” in the forest. He discovers an alluring party in a village full of “pale ones”, where he quickly witnesses the most horrifying parts of humanity as he is beaten and ridiculed for simply not conforming to societal standards the rest of the pale ones, although being exactly the same on the inside.

Returning from the traumatic experience in the village, The Teller contemplates his journey and concludes that despite what society has told him and all the hate he has seen, sometimes “woods have to burn to make a path for what’s new”. Meanwhile an “angry demon” sets the pale ones’ village on fire as The Teller convinces the listener to work to restore the forest to its true former glory, with the Goodtree and all.

Loosely suggested by H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Outsider, the genius of the allegory in Otherbody, comes in Oliver’s cleverly crafted lyrics that are relatively open to interpretation. The score will take at least a second listen to pick up on all the symbolism that The Teller’s story provides to make sense of the recent political rhetoric. Commenting on the racism, homophobia, and fear mongering that has occurred since the campaign trail, songs like “The Gayest Revelry” are filled with emotions that are all to familiar to those who are affected by such issues. The final song, “Roots Dig Deep” is a heartfelt and hopeful ballad that showcases the pain of accepting the evils in life and vowing to speak out against it, even if starts with one person.

At first, a dismal yet honest outlook on the nation’s unprecedented social and political situation, Otherbody is a gorgeously written allegory that leaves the listener with a cathartic release of feeling and a better sense of direction regarding what to do next in a time of discrimination and fear. But arguably most importantly, it’s a reminder to us all that there is still good left, and we can make it flourish – just as otherbodies have done time and time again throughout history.


Otherbody: A Brief Musical Allegory is available to stream on Spotify and for purchase on iTunes. For more info, visit otherbodymusical.com.

How to Survive BroadwayCon When You Can’t Go

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“The New Administration” panel featuring the current cast of Hamilton at BroadwayCon 2017.

In the aftermath a weekend full of non-stop Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, and hundreds of tweets, I’m going to try to do the impossible – create a guide to help you to survive BroadwayCon when you can’t make it.

Whatever the reason, not being able to be at BroadwayCon for even a few hours is absolutely crushing to a die-hard theatre fan. The second annual three-day convention for theatre lovers just concluded on Sunday, and I bet your social media feeds are still flooded with pictures and videos of anything from panels to amazing cosplays posted by those lucky enough to actually be there in person. So, what can be done to alleviate the extreme fear-of-missing-out you get when you scroll through all your social media? In all honesty, none of these methods will come close to actually experiencing BroadwayCon yourself, but hopefully they will raise your spirits.

Get caught up

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This first one may seem counter intuitive, but if you’re really bummed out about not being able to see a certain panel or actor live, check around the BroadwayCon social media and on YouTube to try and find a complete recording of what you’re looking for. Plus, scrolling through the official social media can help you get a better handle on everything that happened at BroadwayCon. Despite not being there physically, you can still stay up to date!

Immerse yourself

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One of the many joys of BroadwayCon is being around other like-minded people, from rambling on and on about Dear Evan Hansen, to meeting fellow Hamilton fans at the sing-along. If you truly want to replicate that feeling, invite some of your theatre loving friends over! You can see a show, sing along to your favorite cast albums or watch your favorite movie musicals. Hit up the online Playbill Store to snag some awesome Broadway merch. Or just see La La Land again. The best part about this is one is that there’s no set schedule to follow, and no crowds! You can decide whatever Broadway-related activities you want to participate in, at any time you want. If your friends aren’t available, worry not! You can still do all of these things by yourself. Dance like nobody’s watching.

Go local

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If you live a long ways away from NYC, there are some cost friendly alternatives to BroadwayCon. Many states have a theatre festival for high school students, as well as student rush tickets at theatres in large cities. Some places, including Chicago, have an entire week dedicated to local theatre. Or perhaps reading is more your thing? Head to your local bookstore and look around their drama section! From Shakespeare to librettos, songbooks, and good old monologue books, you’re sure to find something.

There’s always next year

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When the feeling of missing out on an event as huge for the theatre community is just too great, it’s time to start looking into to next year’s BroadwayCon. If it’s a goal of yours to make the pilgrimage in 2018, start saving up now and keep an eye out in the coming months for announcements on panels and guests so you can plan ahead to make your BroadwayCon experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.


This year’s BroadwayCon fell during a time of unprecedented amount of political strife in our country. During times like this, it’s important to be able to escape all that – even for just a little while – no matter where you live. The theatre community has always been a place of light and hope for everyone and anyone who wishes to be apart of it. BroadwayCon reminds us all that we’re not alone – even if you couldn’t be there yourself to see it. If you feel like you missed out this year, I hope some of these solutions helped you out. But of course, next year’s BroadwayCon awaits…

Spotlight On: Pasek and Paul

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Benj Pasek, 31, (left) and Justin Paul, 32
With seven Golden Globes, 14 Oscar nominations, and a hilariously accurate Saturday Night Live skit under its belt, it’s no understatement that the 2016 film La La Land is one of the biggest movie musical sensations in decades. But it’s the accoladed and accomplished young men behind the lyrics of director Damien Chazelle’s soaring cinematic masterpiece who are quickly rising to the top in both the film and Broadway industries alike.

Justin Pasek, 32, and Benj Paul, 31, are the composing duo responsible for the snappy lyrics to “Another Day of Sun” and the other La La Land songs you hope no one hears you singing in your car. The two self-proclaimed best friends met in college at University of Michigan at age 18, and from there began writing song cycles – their first being Edges, written in 2005. After college, Pasek and Paul’s debut as a Broadway song writing team came in 2010, when they signed on to the creative team for A Christmas Story: The Musical which premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and then later transferred to Broadway in 2012 with positive reviews and three Tony Award nominations. Around the same time, team’s next musical, Dogfight (based on the 1991 film of the same name), premiered Off Broadway in 2012 to, once again, a good amount of critical acclaim, gaining the pair a cult-following status in the theatre community.

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Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in La La Land, with lyrics written by Pasek and Paul.
Outside of La La Land, Pasek and Paul’s current composing endeavour is another Broadway musical, titled Dear Evan Hansen, about the titular high schooler who gets wrapped up in a lie surrounding another student’s death. Since its open in December 2016, critics and audiences alike have praised the show saying it could very well sweep the 2017 Tonys, with Pasek and Paul being some of the top contenders for the Best Original Score award. With the pair having just won a Golden Globe for La La Land as well as receiving two Oscar nominations, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see Pasek and Paul win the Tony based on their track record so far. Because they’re relatively new on the scene, Pasek and Paul are some of the first composers to utilize social media to their advantage when sharing their works, which has spread to Dear Evan Hansen’s marketing team, allowing them and Pasek and Paul themselves to engage in more intimate connections with their fans.

More than just La La Land, Pasek and Paul have planted their feet in the world of young new musical theatre composers, and are making it clear that they’re here to stay. The duo has proved themselves worthy of the theatre community’s acceptance time and time again, with lyrics that are relatable and complex throughout all of their works, and now the obvious success of Dear Evan Hansen, I’m confident in saying that the path ahead of these talented men is paved with more incredible and discussion worthy opportunities.

Review and Thoughts: Fun Home

A mother, a father, two sons and daughter. Sounds like an average American family, right? In Fun Home, not exactly.

In the first national touring production of the 2015 Best Musical Tony Award Winner, based upon lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, Fun Home explores what it’s like to struggle with sexuality, gender roles, and other sensitive topics while growing up in a dysfunctional family. In the show, performed with no intermission, Alison Bechdel (played by Kate Shindle) reflects on her life during her college years (“Medium Alison” played by Abby Corrigan) and as a ten-year-old (“Small Alison” played by Alessandra Baldacchino) to try and unravel the enigma that was her father, Bruce Bechdel (played by Robert Petkoff) – the director of the Bechdel family funeral home (hence “Fun Home”) and a closeted gay man – and Alison’s belief that her own coming out led to his eventual suicide.

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The captivating true story of Alison Bechdel’s family life is complimented by a gorgeous, emotional score written and composed by Tony Award winning team Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron. Tesori and Kron bring a pivotal moment in 10-year-old Alison’s self discovery – when she spots an “old school butch” looking woman in a diner – to fruition with arguably the show’s most recognizable and catchy tune, “Ring of Keys”. Other shining moments in the score include “Come to the Fun Home”, a high energy, dance-heavy sequence with Small Alison and her younger brothers making a commercial for the Bechdel funeral home, and “Edges of the World”, an incredibly raw and moving scene towards the end of the show when Bruce finally reaches his breaking point in regards to his well kept secrets he has hidden from his family and the people in his small home town in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania. Moments such as these would not be nearly as impactful without the supporting cast members – such as Karen Eilbacher as “Joan”, Alison’s college girlfriend, who plays incredibly well to Corrigan’s awkward-yet-relatable Medium Alison.

On Broadway, the show was originally performed in the round at the Circle in the Square Theatre, so major revisions had to be made to Fun Home’s staging for it to work on tour. Without losing any of its ability to deeply connect with an audience, the Fun Home set is simple, yet flexible, with moving walls and furniture items to act in place of the intimacy the Circle in the Square Theatre provided the Broadway production. Even in a larger space like Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, the set works to suck you in and make you feel apart of the family dynamic and Alison’s internal struggles. In fact, for what the physical theatre space lacks in candidness like in the round on Broadway, the aforementioned supporting cast (along with the three Alisons) make up for in full force by way of their transparency, openness, and graceful respect for their real life counterparts when portraying the Bechdels as the family tumbles through the show’s rollercoaster of emotions. Often times, the acting was so powerful myself and a majority of the audience were left breathless during the intense, serious moments that you just can’t not pay attention to and audibly sobbing during the cathartic moments that tug at your heart strings.

Fun Home is no stranger to catharsis in the grand scheme of things, either. At its open in 2015, the show was full of firsts that were like a breath of fresh air to many avid theatre goers: it was, surprisingly, the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist as well as the first musical to win the Tony for Best Musical with an all-female creative team at its helm. In an industry that’s been traditionally favorable to gay men in storytelling, I feel that Fun Home is and will continue to be an invaluable story for not just the theatre community, but also for the queer community for decades to come. Whether you’re apart of the LGBT+ community or not, Fun Home is a relatable coming-of-age journey for anyone and everyone and is without a doubt a must-see.


Fun Home is currently touring across the country. Visit funhomebroadway.com for more info.

Welcome to Project Theatricality!

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Hello! Welcome to Project Theatricality. Firstly, I’d like to explain who I am and why this blog was created. I’m Louise, a high school student from Chicago, Illinois, and this is a blog for me to share my opinions and analyses of musicals, plays, movie musicals – you name it, anything theatrical goes. Some of the works that will be featured here I have seen, while some I just have an extensive knowledge of! In addition to reviewing, and discussing works I feel people enjoy, I’d also like to occasionally keep the theatre community updated on any theatre news regarding new works coming out of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and beyond (including local theatre!). Eventually, I’d like to cover my opinions on my Tony Award picks as well as important events in the theatre community. If you have any kind of theatre piece, event, or general topic you would like me to feature and talk about on this blog, please let me know! I would love to regularly incorporate what you, the reader, wants to see from this blog in the future. I’m open to anything!

Thank you for reading and enjoy your stay here! I hope you decide to join me for the long haul on my journey of loving and shamelessly indulging in theatre.