There are few plays that veer so seamlessly from high comedy to dark tragedy as Dear Evan Hansen does each night. And how difficult it must be to find an actor to pull off the awkwardly nerdy romantic lead role, singing all the while.
Ben Platt did it in stellar fashion. And now there’s Taylor Trensch who manages to make the role his own.
At first sight, there’s a stark resemblance and I’m sure fans would be happy enough with a replicated performance. But Trensch claims the role in a unique way - adding nervous tics and vocal inflections that allow us to see a different if nonetheless equally compelling star turn. And when it comes time to pull out all the stops in those highly cathartic scenes, Trensch, like Platt seems to lose it - weeping full throttle without missing a beat.
Happily, the rest of the cast stayed on and the performances have deepened believe it or not. The dynamic has shifted a bit, perhaps because a new star gives us reason to focus on the other characters more and they're all staking out an equal share of the spotlight.
Of course it helps that Steven Levenson’s book and the score by Pasek and Paul resonate with such honest human emotion. And Michael Grief’s eloquent direction integrates all the disparate elements into the language of heart and yes heart-wrenching grief. But let’s not forget the humor, which has only become more pointed and rich.
Regardless of your stage in life, Dear Evan Hansen will touch you in ways you probably never expected. That’s the wonder of live theatre…and the best of it has the miraculous ability to make you feel even more alive.