Find Yourself at Dear Evan Hansen
Tony Award-winning musical returns to Charlotte Oct. 25 – 30
Dear Evan Hansen closed on Broadway just a few weeks ago (Sept. 18), but audiences can still catch the Tony Award-winning musical if it happens to come through their town.
Luckily for Charlotteans, it’s headed back to the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Belk Theater Oct. 25 through 30.
“It’s bittersweet about Broadway closing, but at the same time, it makes you appreciate our touring company a little more,” said Michael Uselmann, who’s served as associate conductor since September 2019.
“We’re playing to audiences that otherwise probably wouldn’t get to see it.”
We spoke to Uselmann by phone while he was in Detroit for a two-week run of the show.
PHOTO ABOVE: Anthony Norman (Evan Hansen) in the 2022-2023 North American Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN | CREDIT: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
A Coming-Of-Age Story for the Modern Age
The musical, which has won critical and popular acclaim since opening on Broadway in December 2016, focuses on the titular Evan, an introspective, socially anxious high school senior just looking to fit in.
The show chronicles how his life is turned upside down after a letter he wrote – that was never meant to be seen – gets discovered and misconstrued.
Through Evan’s story, the power and the dangers of social media and the heartbreak of teen depression and suicide are laid bare.
Evan may be the star, but the music – by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul – also gets top billing. Waving Through a Window and You Will Be Found became the breakout numbers from the score, but nearly every song packs an emotional wallop.
The Musicians Behind the Music are Front and Center
Uselmann, who lives in New York when he’s not on the road, conducts a band of eight, including keyboardist, violinist, a violist, a violoncellist, two guitarists, a bass guitarist/upright bass player and drums. He plays keyboard and conducts the band.
He and the band are positioned on an elevated platform on stage rather than in an orchestra pit, so he can see the audience reaction night after night. For him, the most emotional moment happens toward the end of Act II when the actress playing Evan’s mom sings So Big/So Small.
“The whole stage is kind of flooded with light, so you can see everything very clearly at that point,” he said. “And I can see a lot of people adjusting their masks and wiping tears from their eyes. That’s a moment that really stands out to me.”
A Life in Musical Theater
Uselmann earned an MFA from NYU in musical theater writing. He’s been part of other touring musicals, including The Sound of Music national tour, Elf the Musical (2016) and Beauty and the Beast.
When he first saw Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway in early 2017 – with the original cast, including Ben Platt in the title role – he had no way of knowing he’d eventually devote several years of his life to it. But he hoped.
“Seeing the original and especially seeing an actor like Ben Platt who became so iconic and so known for playing the role was something special,” he said. Platt went on to reprise the role in the 2021 movie adaptation. He also stars in the Ryan Murphy-created Netflix series, The Politician, with Bette Midler, Jessica Lange, Judith Light and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Welcome to the Queen City
This will be Uselmann’s first trip to Charlotte. If being constantly on the road is tough, he doesn’t let on.
“We have a really great company of actors, musicians, crew and management,” he said. “They really take care of us, which makes touring pretty easy.”
Of course, playing beloved songs from a beloved musical night after night is a good gig. At the 71st Tony Awards, Dear Evan Hansen was nominated for nine awards – winning six – including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor (Platt) and Best Featured Actress (Rachel Bay Jones as Evan’s mom, Heidi).
The musical also won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
It’s Easy to Join the Chorus
Evan’s journey will likely be deeply felt by anyone in high school or anyone who was once a high school student. Evan often feels invisible – and who hasn’t felt the same? – and wonders in Waving Through a Window if anyone even notices him. (“When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?”)
Once the letter he’d written himself (at his therapist’s suggestion) is discovered – and the ensuing story (involving the suicide of another student) goes viral – his short-lived, misbegotten fame makes him wish he could be invisible again.
Despite the trauma depicted in the musical, Dear Evan Hansen is ultimately uplifting and hopeful. The message in the song – You Will Be Found – and in the musical is a lifeline to anyone who’s ever felt forgotten.
“Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found.”
You Will Be Found.
Dear Evan Hansen is playing at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Belk Theater from Oct. 25 – 30. Learn more and buy tickets (starting at $34.50) at blumenthalarts.org.
This story was sponsored by Blumenthal Performing Arts.