Teen angst has long served as the inspiration for great musical theater. “The Fantasticks” (1960), “Bye Bye Birdie” (1960), “” the 2006 Tony-winning musical based on an 1891 German play, and “Fun Home,” the 2013 winner inspired by cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel.
“” a rock musical with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“” “Greatest Showman”) and book by Steven Levenson that took home six Tonys, including best musical in 2017, is the latest blockbuster to play on those familiar themes of adolescence.
The touring production comes to the Broward Center on Tuesday, March 26 for a two-week run starring Ben Levi Ross in the title role.
“There are so many pieces why this show has been such a success,” said Ross in a telephone interview. “The characters are so specific, so real and so flawed. There’s not one person on the stage where you recognize a perfect moral compass. Everyone has their moments of levity and big pitfalls and they deal with them in real and different ways.”
“Dear Evan Hansen” tells the story of a young man with social anxiety disorder who so yearns to make a connection with his peers that he fabricates a relationship with a deceased student.
In a misguided attempt to comfort the boy’s grieving family, Evan pretends that he was good friends with their son. He fabricates an email account to “prove” their friendship, and when a fake suicide note makes its way online, Evan finds himself the unintended face of a viral video about loneliness and friendship.
Evan is drawn deeper and deeper into the lie and his relationship with his actual mother wanes in comparison to that of his “shiny new” family. He finally lands the girl of his dreams, and, most importantly, he’s no longer invisible.
Eventually, Evan is forced to make a decision: Will he give himself over to the fantasy he’s created, or will he reveal the truth and risk losing everything he’s ever wanted?
“It really is a play with music,” Ross said. “It’s not an operetta. There is a sturdy book by Steven Levenson, so audiences can expect a well-constructed story that is riveting and exciting and you never know what’s happening next. The score is beautiful. Benj and Justin are geniuses. The score verges and converges with pop music in a tasteful way that maintains beautiful, intricate, lush musical theater melodies.”
The role has been equally life-changing for Ross, who left his musical theater program at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh to join the Broadway cast as an understudy. He spent 10 months in New York before taking the lead in the first national tour last year and beginning his travels across the country to cities both large and small.
“It’s been a dream come true,” he said.
The national touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen” opens March 26 and runs through April 7 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $63 at BrowardCenter.org.