Dear Evan Hansen for the second time was excellent, in my opinion far better than the first time I saw it last Spring. There’s the obvious absence of Ben Platt, which does make a difference. He was lightning in the role and that’s not to be dismissed.
However, Taylor Trensch is everything that he could be expected to be and more. He’s awkward, lovable, and VERY charming in a role that desperately needs it’s player to be endearing to the audience. The way he plays the character was quite different from Platt, particularly in the way they tackled the humor of the character. Platt was a little more smooth, Trensch a little more abrasive. Both styles have their perks and I laughed plenty at both. His vocals, which were my main concern going in, were flawless. With the exception of one belted ‘waving,’ he did not miss a beat, and the power he has as a vocalist shocked me.
The rest of the cast is the same as it was when I saw it last year. Rachel Bay Jones is still nailing it after a year and a half on Broadway and longer pre-Broadway. Her performance is still 100% authentically present, she doesn’t phone it in. Her voice, which I have always loved, has held up remarkably well for the kind of stuff she has to do onstage. Jennifer Laura Thompson is also doing a great job remaining fresh and present, with very real and moving tears for much of the show. The greatest gainer in my opinion was Laura Dreyfuss. She speaks in a weird, indie-wannabe accent that I cannot figure out, and I cannot say I love. But her performance felt much more layered this time around, much less full on angsty, and more complex. And I’ve always loved her as a singer.
I had an easier time with the story, too. I have a lot of reservations about the character of Evan. But he was a lot easier to sympathize with and love this time. I see myself in him at parts of the show, I also am completely unable to relate to smaller parts of him. But I do feel much better about the story now.