Written By Daz Gale
Dear All That Dazzles Readers
This is going to be an amazing article and here’s why. I’m going to talk about my favourite show.
Ok, it might not necessarily be amazing and more of a rambling mess, but at least it will be from the heart… and that’s enough.
West End LIVE 2022
On Saturday 22nd October, the West End production closed its doors for the last time nearly three years to the day it first opened. Though its run was interrupted by Covid, forcing it to close for 19 months, it had an impactful run while it was in London winning multiple awards including three Olivier awards. But nothing can last for forever (maybe apart from Les Miserables) and it was time to say goodbye to this amazing albeit divisive show. I was at that final show in what was without a doubt the most emotional experience I have ever had in the theatre.
I wanted to express what it is about this show that resonates with me so deeply and why it has been so hard to say goodbye to it. I have been on a journey with Dear Evan Hansen so please forgive what will be a very self-indulgent article but there is so much I wanted to say in what will be my equivalent to a eulogy. This definitely won’t be a case of words failing.
A tweet from me in 2017 before the website existed and before I'd ever seen the show
I had heard what a special show Dear Evan Hansen was from other theatre fans so took myself to see it on Broadway in 2018. Having listened to the cast recording repeatedly, I thought I knew what the show was about but was not prepared for what followed. I found myself emotional just setting foot in the Music Box Theatre in New York and knew I had just found a new favourite show. As much as I loved it in New York though, when it opened in London it was even better. Over its time in the West End, I went back to see it repeatedly including the first preview, its reopening night and, of course, its final show.
My first time seeing the show at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway in 2018
There was never a visit where the show became any less incredible. I always found new moments to discover and be moved by, with performers such as Sam Tutty and Marcus Harman both as Evan giving a slightly different performance each time in a role that demanded raw emotion every single time – phoning it in was never an option in Evan Hansen.
When people ask me what my favourite musical is, there are 5 I name immediately. They are all in a God tier level which is hard to differentiate which one I love the most. Why Dear Evan Hansen just nudges ahead of the others is the emotional factor. No other show has ever plunged deep into my heart and evoked such intense reactions as this show does. I always say the power of theatre is its ability to make you feel and this certainly does that more than any other show I’ve been to.
Memories from the first West End performance in 2019. I love my special first night hat!
So what is it about this show that gets to me so much?
The story itself is deeply emotional (and problematic – believe me, I do get that completely and why some people really dislike this show) but on top of that, it has parallels to my life which have only intensified since the show first opened.
There’s the overarching theme of being invisible and just wanting to matter to somebody which resonates with me deeply. It’s no secret I have struggled through my life with thoughts like that with some very dark moments I won’t go into, so the message of everybody mattering and not giving up in those moments of despair can be a very tough watch but a very comforting one. There is not a single time I have managed to get through ‘You Will Be Found’ without sobbing – in part due to the lyrical content, in part due to the staging of the song not to mention the acting choices and my own personal connection to that. Since the pandemic, that has only gotten worse – I did feel incredibly alone during the initial lockdown (which is one of the reasons I started this website) and the message of the song just hits different.
There are other aspects to the show that I find myself relating to. I grew up in a single parent family and the events of ‘So Big, So Small’ are very close to home. When I have taken my mum to see the show, she has found that moment very hard to watch – but there is comfort in relating to moments in theatre, as traumatic as that might be. Without going into specifics of what my father was like, I ended up at a matinee of Dear Evan Hansen after his funeral (this had already been booked so was very coincidental) and the lyrics in ‘Requiem’ spoke to me more than they ever had before. Just when I think I can’t find any more relatability in the show, I found myself relating to ‘Only Us’ this year. The way this show continued to surprise me with its varied and increased connections only made my love for it grow.
Pictures from the final performance - October 22nd 2022
I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves this show so much for how they can relate to it. It is a difficult show but it is incredibly comforting. It’s lyrical content are clever and intricate, touching on themes and aspects that aren’t spoken about too commonly.
It’s fair to say I have been on a journey with this show both personally and professionally. I am not the same person I was when I first saw that show in 2018 with lots of immense changes. I vividly remember buying a ticket to the London press night, sat in the Gods, looking down on the stalls and thinking how cool it would be to be invited to a press night. Back then, this website wasn’t something I was expecting to do and I had no idea how the simple act of creating it would transform my life completely. So there is the element of taking a step back and looking at how far I’ve come since the show opened until the day it closed. I’m aware that may sound incredibly arrogant and self-indulgent but I credit theatre in general and especially this show and how therapeutic it has been to me as a chief aspect into my own growth.
Even though it’s my favourite show, it’s not without its faults. As for the movie adaptation, I’ve made no secret of my feelings for that (Read my 2 star review of that mess here) - but there is something about this show, the feelings it evokes and the connections it creates which goes above and beyond your average show. Most of my visits have seen me have lovely conversations with the people beside me, comforted in the knowledge we are in it together. The one time I actually braved seeing the show on my own, the woman next to me handed me a tissue after ‘You Will Be Found’. It’s rare a show can transcend like this, but Dear Evan Hansen managed to stay with you long after you had left the theatre.
I expected the final performance of Dear Evan Hansen to be extra emotional but even I wasn’t prepared for the evening that was ahead. Sam Tutty was in tears before he’d even said his first word thanks to an extra rapturous applause from the audience. He struggled to get through ‘You Will Be Found’ stopping after the first “When you need a friend to carry you” at which point the entire audience carried him through the rest of the song with applause, and as the show drew to its close, it just kept getting worse.
Every cast member struggled to keep it together but they all seemed to comfort each other in a truly intimate performance. If ‘Words Fail’ is raw at the best of times, this final performance was as intense as it gets with the silent moments filled with audible sobbing throughout most of the audience. For the final minute of the show, he prolonged the final “For forever” as we all shared the knowledge and impending grief that as soon as he said it, it was all over. And then… it was.
Here are the speeches from the final performance:
Will I ever find a show I love as much as Dear Evan Hansen. It’s unlikely. There is love for a show and then there’s connecting with a show and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to connect with a musical like I did with this truly beautiful show.
Thank you everyone at Dear Evan Hansen for everything - the cast past and present, the creatives, everyone involved in it in whatever small way. From something that may be so small you have created something so big.
Most importantly, thank you for finding us – you will be missed.